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BEIRUT, February 26 (Itar-Tass) — Syria on Sunday will hold a referendum on a draft new constitution, which will introduce a multiparty system in the country. The republic’s Interior Ministry reported that 14.6 million people who will vote at 14,185 polling stations will be able to take part in it. Taking into account the threat of terrorist attacks, the authorities have taken reinforced security measures in a number of the country’s areas. Voting will begin at 07:00, local time (09:00 MSK) and ends at 20:00 (22:00 MSK). State television did not rule out that the polling stations’ work period may be extended, if necessary.
The main political force in the country - Progressive National Front, led by the Arab Baath Socialist Party, called on the people to actively participate in the plebiscite, which opens the way for the construction of “a renewed Syria.” “It is the duty of every patriot to vote in support of the document, which enshrines in law the reforms initiated by the government,” it stressed in an address to the citizens.
The opposition Popular Will Party called the forthcoming referendum “a starting point on the way out of the protracted crisis, which was accompanied by the shedding of Syrian blood.” The new constitution “creates an appropriate political climate for conducting long due socio-economic reforms,” according to the party statement. It indicates that the opposition forces will press in the future for making in a constitutional way amendments to the Fundamental Law and more clear-cut division of powers between the branches of authority.
The spiritual leaders of Syrian Muslims and Christians addressed the citizens on the eve of the plebiscite. Authoritative Islamic scholar Ramadan al-Buti, quoted by the SANA news agency, said that “the constitution reflects the aspirations of all segments of Syrian society.” According to him, the important point is to determine the religion of Islam as the faith of the Syrian president, and Sharia (Islamic law) – as a source of legislation.
Commentators in Damascus do not doubt the positive outcome of the historic referendum that will allow the country to take an important step towards democratisation. The parliamentary elections to be held on the new political and legal basis are scheduled for the end of May.