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“Reform” or Differences Within the Syrian Opposition Coalition?

The Syrian Opposition Coalition is witnessing an internal crisis following the "reforms" led by Salem al-Meslet, according to al-Hal Net.
“Reform” or Differences Within the Syrian Opposition Coalition?

Signs of dysfunction have doubled since the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Salem al-Meslet, announced several reforms. This came particularly after a delegation from him attended the seminar called for by former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, and came up with recommendations calling on the coalition to reform internally and adopt a new discourse. 

The first steps described by the coalition as reform resulted in the withdrawal of the Free Patriotic Gathering, revealing the singularity of a small group within the coalition in the decision. This raises questions about the impact of Hijab’s symposium on these decisions, especially since the organizers of the symposium had previously hinted to Hal Net that they might hold a new symposium/conference to form a political body. Will these dismissals and moves be a motive for what may be close to the formation of a new political body under the auspices of Hijab?

Inconvenience or framing? 

Wael Alwan, a researcher at Jusoor Center for Studies, sees the reform process in the coalition as going through tiring steps, not in an easy way. There are draft amendments to the internal system that have not yet been agreed upon. 

Alwan told Hal Net that the list, possibly followed by other names of members, had been dismissed by the coalition presidency without clarifying the dismissal procedure. This dismissal came under the pretext of non-interaction or ineffectiveness, in the sense that they don’t attend regular meetings. 

According to Alwan, there are members who stand against these measures and say that it is illegal. It hides a goal other than reform, an attempt by some blocs to win more votes and scale back other blocs, within the conflicting influence in the coalition. 

Despite all this, there are still debates among members and insiders, but in general, these steps, such as re-representation, are considered necessary by Alwan. In particular, the replacement of local councils, which have been replaced by only four councils, out of nine. All local councils were assumed to be properly framed to ensure that each council nominated its representative regardless of the competence of the current representatives. 

Can the National Coalition lead Syria now? 

Syrian journalist Aqil Hussein told Hal Net that since Salem Meslet came to the presidency of the coalition, he has been trying to register a reformist position at any cost, in any form, and at any level. But his efforts have always failed because of the complexity of opinions within the institution which should be based on implicit or structured balances and consensuses between the blocs that make it up. 

These blocs, according to Hussein, have often been consistent and in agreement, at least since 2017, when these consensuses proceed normally. However, any attempt to change or compromise them erupts into crises and conflicts within the coalition. 

Read Also: Syrian Opposition Coalition Dismisses Members Amid Reform Project

According to Hussein, the seminar held by Riad Hijab’s Office in Qatar on reforming Syrian opposition institutions had no impact, as it did not touch the core of the crisis in the coalition, and merely issued recommendations that did not change its reality. However, even these recommendations, despite their low impact, have raised the concerns of the blocs, increased their anxiety, and strained the atmosphere within the institution. The withdrawal of the National Assembly to work in the state is a protest against the blockage of the horizon in the coalition, especially since Hijab was one of the founders of the assembly and has an impact on it. 

In the Syrian journalist’s opinion, Hijab cannot launch an initiative at the level of forming a new political body, given his relationship with Qatar and Turkey –two countries that consider the Syrian opposition coalition’s existence and continuity to be a red-line. Turkey has therefore reportedly ordered recent membership amendments. It ensures that there is no real change, while at the same time satisfying Ankara’s powerfully influential and allied blocs. 

Rectifying movement or deportation? 

The Free National Assembly of Workers in Syrian State Institutions, founded by former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, announced its withdrawal from the National Coalition, just hours after the coalition removed 14 of its members, citing its “reform” efforts and mandates of the public interest as justifications. 

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Council said that the Executive Office of the Council decided to resign from the National Coalition for the reasons contained in the statement. He indicated that his joining of the coalition was at the invitation of the coalition when it was formed. The Council approved this request in order to ensure the unity of the forces and not divide them. 

According to the statement, it was later found that the influencers within the coalition had other objectives, under which they sought to freeze and exclude opponents from participating in the representation of the “revolution,” but the issue arose when the Council or its representatives objected. 

The National Coalition organized an eight-member committee last January to review and update the coalition’s statute, as well as submit new draft proposals to restructure the institution and break its years of stalemate and lack of results. 

The new draft proposes abolishing the revolutionary movement blocs and local councils, as well as transferring the members of these blocs to the “evaluation”. In addition to transferring the members of these two blocs to the “evaluation,” as well as issuing a decision from the coalition to form parliamentary councils for the governorates that bring together all the actors in the governorate from “media, revolutionaries and members of society,” with a minimum of 200 members.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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