Parliament Accepts Assad Nomination
Jun. 27, 2000
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ Parliament on Tuesday unanimously accepted Bashar Assad's nomination for president and set July 10 as the date for a nationwide referendum on whether he should replace his father, the late President Hafez Assad.
Parliament Speaker Abdul-Qader Qadoura put the nomination, recommended by the ruling Baath Party, to a show of hands.
``The people's assembly approves the nomination of comrade ... Bashar Assad ... for president of the Arab Republic of Syria for a constitutional presidential term of seven years,'' Qadoura said. The rubber-stamp legislature responded with a standing ovation and thunderous applause from deputies who chanted, ``We sacrifice our blood and our souls to you, Bashar.''
Another Syrian official, who asked not to be named, said a date for Bashar's swearing-in had been set for July 17. If past election patterns hold true, some 99 percent of voters will vote ``yes'' on the referendum ballot, which will list Bashar as the only candidate.
Parliament had been expected to vote Monday evening on the nomination and set a date for the referendum. But more than four hours after Monday's session began, only 64 deputies of 200 requesting time had spoken and the session was adjourned until Tuesday.
The parliament vote followed three hours of eloquent tributes to the late leader and Bashar Assad, a 34-year-old former eye doctor.
Deputy Midhat Saleh said that under Hafez Assad, Syria became ``the envy of the world.'' Referring to Bashar Assad, he said: ``We shall march behind you with absolute loyalty and sincerity.''
Another lawmaker, Nadia Hashem, said of the elder Assad: ``He died standing on his feet, and that is how real men die.'' Bashar Assad, she said, is a ``knight, who will lead us from day to day.''
Assad's nomination process veered Monday from a carefully scripted course when a deputy said a procedural error had been made in lowering the minimum age for a president to match that of the 34-year-old son of Syria's late leader.
The objection came from deputy Monzir Moussali, who said the constitutional amendment adopted June 10 hours after Assad died that lowered the minimum age for president from 40 to 34 did not cite the reasons for the amendment.
Other deputies tried to shout Moussali down and Qadoura said the error was unintentional. He abruptly closed the subject.
Moussali, who apologized when he was given the floor nearly three hours after he first spoke, pleaded that his emotional outburst be forgiven and declared his unwavering support for Bashar Assad's nomination.
``I stand by my point, but several parties ... have described me as an opposition member in the assembly,'' he said. ``In this country and in this assembly, our only opposition is to imperialism and its conspiracies against our country. We are all in one trench and follow the same path.''
Speaker Qadoura responded: ``Your apology is a sign of respect for this institution and a confession that you have erred.''
In a country where security agencies are known to have eyes and ears everywhere, everyone is expected to toe the official line and show it. In this case, the line is that Bashar Assad, a political novice, is the best suited to carry on the policies his father pursued during 30 years in power.