Though Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was expected to give a public address on Sunday, he contented himself with sending an internal message to members of the Baath Party, focusing on preparations for the People’s Assembly elections to take place in July.
Assad noticeably ignored political and military developments in Syria. His message also neglected to mention the country’s worsening economic crisis, with the incoming US Caesar sanctions. The president, who is also the general secretary of the Baath Party, instead encouraged members of the party, which has been in power since 1963, to participate in choosing their candidates for the elections.
It is certain that the message’s sole focus on party matters, without any attention towards general issues in Syria, will surprise Syrians who awaited Assad’s speech—especially since many of them were expecting him to announce new steps to face economic collapse. Some Syrians had been even more optimistic, expecting the president to make political concessions that would have contributed to pushing for a political solution to end the war.
And although Assad devoted his speech to party matters, he did not present any new thinking that could be considered a sign of developments and new ideology of the Baath Party. Instead, he reiterated the notability and authenticity of the party, its development, interactions, sacrifices and struggles.
Assad did acknowledge small mistakes made by the party, its members and leadership. But these did not appear important enough for him to warrant adequate recognition of their impact. He said, “[The party’s history] has not been free from the mistakes that many parties make, which led to its role declining at some stages, and the abuse of its image in other stages. It also led to the reluctance of some to engage in carrying responsibilities. There was also some imbalance in relations between the leadership and the base within the party, forming an obstacle that caused a regression of the rules from those carrying out their responsibilities, and thus their absence—or detraction—from exercising their right and duty to run, elect or take part in bringing about competent leaders to represent them in the party or in elected national institutions. All of this led to party stagnation on the ideological and procedural levels.”
Assad also included in his message the solution to everything mentioned above, “Taking the most important steps to preserve, develop and strengthen the party, including expanding the participation of party members in choosing their representatives for the People’s Assembly [because] taking this step, in these circumstances, is evidence of the high vitality and spirit of renewal that distinguishes the party.”
Assad’s words in describing the Baathists does not agree with the view of other Syrians, who believe that if Hafez al-Assad undermined the party in favor of dictatorship in Syria, then his son’s rule has completely undermined the Baath party and has reduced it to ruins. There are some who affirm that Bashar was never for one day convinced of the Baath party’s ideals, and that he has been making fun of it and its ideas even after he took power in the party’s own name.
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.