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Cities in SYRIA



State structure

Syria is a secular state governed by a regime that relies on a small power group that largely belongs to the Alawite religious minority. Following Assad's seizure of power in 1971, the interim constitution of 1969 was amended to give the president more power. The president is elected for a seven-year term and is not only head of state, but also commander-in-chief of the armed forces and secretary-general of the Ba'ath Party. He is also authorised to appoint and dismiss vice-presidents, the prime minister and the council of ministers. In 1973, the amended constitution was ratified by referendum.

The constitution defines the Syrian Arab Republic as a democratic-socialist people's republic, led by the Ba'ath Party. Although executive power is nominally vested in the Council of Ministers, it is the President who makes the most important decisions. The People's Assembly, formed in 1998, approves the regime's policies without substantial debate. It is dominated by the National Progressive Front, since 1972 a coalition of six parties, within which the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party is all-powerful. The Ba'ath Party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament.

After the death of Hafez Al-Assad, the Syrian parliament amended the constitution, lowering the minimum age of the president from 40 to 34. This was a first step towards making the succession of Hafez Al-Assad by his son Bashar Al-Assad possible. After the parliament and the Ba'ath Party expressed their support for Bashar's candidacy for the presidency, 97.29% of the votes cast approved his nomination in a national referendum on 10 July 2000. One week later, on 17 July, Bashar Al-Assad was inaugurated as the new President of Syria.


In addition to socio-economic development, domestic policy is aimed at maintaining existing power structures. The political system rests on four pillars: the armed forces, the security forces, the bureaucracy and the Ba'ath Party. As an instrument to keep the country in their grip, the rulers use an extensive network of security services. The state of emergency declared in 1963, which is still in force and which is justified on the grounds that Syria is in a state of war with Israel, gives the security services a basis for operating outside any judicial control.

Anything perceived to be contrary to the state order created by the socialist Ba'ath Party is dealt with severely. Although Syria is generally seen as a relatively stable country with good basic services, this has come at the expense of individual freedoms. The arrival in power of Bashar Al-Assad could mean a turnaround, but it is too early to anticipate this. It is expected that a new government will be presented soon. Only when it is known who will be in it will there be more clarity about the course of the current regime in Damascus.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Syrian economy was based on state socialism. In the second half of the 1980s, a serious financial and economic crisis occurred, which, together with the loss of Soviet support, forced the regime to change course somewhat and create more room for private initiative. After the Gulf War, in which Syria sided with the anti-Iraq coalition, there was a flow of Arab money to Syria, which led to an important economic revival. Between 1990 and 1995, the economy grew at an average rate of 6% per year, partly due to a significant increase in oil and agricultural production.

Despite modest economic growth and reforms before the outbreak of unrest, the Syrian economy continues to deteriorate due to the ongoing conflict that began in 2011. The economy collapsed further in 2013 due to international sanctions, massive infrastructure damage, reduced domestic consumption and production, and sharply rising inflation. The government is struggling to deal with the effects of the economic downturn, including declining foreign exchange reserves, a rising budget and trade deficits, and the falling value of the Syrian pound. The GDP per capita is $2,900 (2015). No figures are available for the last few years.

The ongoing conflict and economic decline have created a humanitarian crisis and a need for international assistance. Long-term economic constraints include foreign trade barriers, falling oil production, high unemployment, rising budget deficits, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by intensive agriculture, rapid population growth and water pollution.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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