2012 Syrian constitutional referendum

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A constitutional referendum was held in Syria on 26 February 2012. In response to the Syrian Civil War, President Bashar al-Assad ordered a new constitution to be drafted.[1] The referendum was not monitored by foreign observers.[2]


The new constitution would set a limit of two seven-year terms for future presidents and also removed Article 8 of the constitution of Syria, which states that "the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party leads the state and society."[3]


Political parties[edit]

The new constitution removes the de jure Ba'ath Party monopoly over the political life of Syria. The text also prohibits the formation of political parties on an ethnic, religious, regional or tribal basis.[4] However, any planned political party must get the government's permission and approval before it is to be formed.[5]


According to the new constitution, presidential elections are held every seven years. They are intended to be contested by several candidates, unlike the old form of election in which a single candidate was approved or rejected.[4]

The conditions required to be candidate at the presidential election are the following:

  1. A candidate must be Muslim
  2. A candidate must have the support of 35 members of the parliament
  3. A candidate must be 40 years old or more
  4. A candidate must have lived in Syria for 10 years before the election
  5. A candidate must be Syrian by birth, of parents who are Syrians by birth
  6. A candidate must not be married to a non-Syrian spouse


Syria will no longer be a planned socialist economy but will focus on the principle of developing public and private economy in order to boost the national income and to develop the production to create jobs and raise the standard of living. The constitution states that development is the goal of all economics of policy and that consumers and producers are protected. Private property is protected and can only be confiscated for necessities of war and disasters and only for a fair compensation.[6]

Religion and culture[edit]

The new constitution says that the state respects and protects all religions, but reaffirms that Islamic jurisprudence is a major source of inspiration, like in the old constitution.[4] The new constitution states that scientific research is supported by the state and the freedom of scientific research, artistic creation, literature and cultural creativity are protected.[6]

Rights and freedom[edit]

The new constitution forbids any discrimination on the grounds of sex, origin, religion or language.[6] National unity, integrity and military service are considered a "sacred duty" while freedom is considered a sacred right.[6]


In the weeks leading up to the referendum, public television hosted discussions about the new constitution and informed citizens how to vote.[7]

The main foreign-based opposition group, the SNC, opposed the proposed constitution and called for a boycott.[8] The Syrian opposition in exile described the new constitution as fraudulent and the referendum as a farce. It pointed out that the Syrian government had never respected the old constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech and peaceful demonstrations and bans torture.[9]


Due to the ongoing fighting in Syria, questions were raised over the organization of the vote in the cities of Homs, Hama, Daraa and in the northern province of Idlib, which are areas held by the rebellion. Voters present in these areas were not able to take part in the referendum unless they traveled to government-held areas.

14.6 million Syrians were eligible to vote,[4] in 14,185 polling stations which were open from 7:00-19:00.[10] Multiple polling stations were set up in each district and neighborhood of central Damascus.

At midday, the interior ministry announced that the referendum was going smoothly in most of the provinces.[11] The interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, announced that the turnout was "high except in some areas despite threats and intimidation from armed groups." He called the participation in central Damascus "remarkable."[11][12]

Canadian-based Global News reported that the turnout was high in pro-Assad neighbourhoods or areas with a high security presence, but made note that areas which have held anti-government protests had a very low turnout. They also suggested that though a portion of the voters were opposed to the government, there was also a belief that the referendum would be "a step in the right direction." It also suggested that in pro-government neighbourhood there was pressure to vote and pressure to boycott the vote in anti-government neighbourhoods.[13]

President Bashar al-Assad voted with his wife Asma at a voting centre located at the headquarters of the national television where he was cheered by their employees.[14] A crowd of Assad supporters in Damascus showed their support for the referendum.[15]


Syrian constitutional referendum, 2012
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 7,490,319 89.42
No 753,208 8.99
Invalid or blank votes 132,920 1.59
Total votes 8,376,447 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 14,589,954 57.41
Source: Direct Democracy

With a voter turnout of 57.4% and 89.4% voting in favour, the new constitution was adopted.[16] President Al-Assad signed the new constitution into force on 27 February 2012.[17]

International reactions[edit]

Russia Russia - A Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement welcomed the referendum outcome, saying that the referendum had shown popular support of the government’s reform programme and denied legitimacy to the Syrian opposition, which tried but failed to persuade the people to boycott the vote. Russia also urged the Syrian sides to renounce violence and enter into a dialogue without preconditions.[18]


  1. ^ "Article". canada.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  2. ^ "Syria referendum called "a sham"". GlobalPost. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  3. ^ "Syria to hold referendum on new constitution". BBC News. 15 February 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "Factbox: Referendum on Syria's new constitution". Reuters. 25 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Syria says referendum results coming Monday; vote punctuated by new violence". CNN. 26 February 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic Approved in Popular Referendum on February 27, 2012 Archived January 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine SANA, 28 February 2012
  7. ^ "Syria holds vote on constitution". The Daily Star. 26 February 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -What's in a vote?". NOW Lebanon. 2012-02-24. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  9. ^ "Syria votes on new constitution referendum amid unrest". BBC News. 26 February 2012.
  10. ^ Syrian Arab News Agency: SANA, Damascus Syria - syria news (2012-02-26). "Syrian Arab news agency - SANA - Syria : Syria news ::". Sana.sy. Archived from the original on 2012-04-13. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  11. ^ a b Syrian Arab News Agency: SANA, Damascus Syria - syria news (2012-02-26). "Syrian Arab news agency - SANA - Syria : Syria news ::". Sana.sy. Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  12. ^ Syrian Arab News Agency: SANA, Damascus Syria - syria news (2012-02-27). "Syrian Arab news agency - SANA - Syria : Syria news ::". Sana.sy. Archived from the original on 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  13. ^ Ben Hubbard, Zeina Karam : (2012-02-26). "Global News | West dismisses Syrian referendum on new constitution as 'farce'". Globalnews.ca. Retrieved 2012-07-23.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -Assad, wife vote in Syria referendum". NOW Lebanon. 2012-02-26. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  15. ^ Syrian Arab News Agency: SANA, Damascus Syria - syria news (2012-02-26). "Syrian Arab news agency - SANA - Syria : Syria news ::". Sana.sy. Archived from the original on 2012-04-13. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  16. ^ "Interior Ministry: 89.4% of the 8,376,447 Voters Agreed to New Constitution". Syrian Arab News Agency. 28 February 2012. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  17. ^ "Presidential Decree on Syria's New Constitution". Syrian Arab News Agency. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  18. ^ "Russia welcomes Syrian referendum outcome". The Voice of Russia. 27 February 2012. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012.