Syrian Vice President Out In Baath Party Shake-Up

The Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in Syria selected 16 new members, which included many new faces and the ouster of Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa.

al-monitor Syria's Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa sits in his office during a meeting with an Iranian delegation (not pictured) in Damascus, Aug. 26, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri.

Topics covered

syrian regime, syrian crisis, syrian, bashar al-assad, baath

Jul 10, 2013

Yesterday [July 8], the Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in Syria injected new blood into the party by replacing its members. Longtimers such as Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa are out. The Syrian prime minister and parliament speaker, and some women, are in.

No decisions or recommendations were issued in view of the exceptional nature of the meeting. The leaders of some party branches were promoted to leadership party posts.

A Syrian official announced that the army has gained control over the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, which is being “cleaned” of gunmen. SANA reported that the army has made advances in another neighborhood and gained control over a number of buildings in the Bab Hod neighborhood.

Two days after the Syrian National Coalition elected Ahmed Assi al-Jarba, who is close to Saudi Arabia, as president, the head of the Syrian interim government, Ghassan Hito, who is close to Qatar, resigned — three months after his appointment. Moscow announced that it was willing to work with Jarba but cast doubt about his commitment to peace after he said that the National Coalition will not participate in the Geneva II conference if the military situation doesn’t improve.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad chaired an expanded meeting of the Central Committee in the presidential palace in Damascus, in the presence of 300 people.

Assad stressed that the party should develop itself by promoting a culture of dialogue and voluntary popular work. He also called for new controls and precise criteria for selecting party representatives so that they can serve the interests of the workers, peasants and craftsmen and deepen the interaction with the citizens to overcome the negative effects of the crisis.

Assad called on the Baathists to “develop criteria for the party hierarchy as well as effective mechanisms to attract talent and select the suitable representatives for the party in state institutions so that they can work to achieve the interests of the broader segments of the workers, peasants and craftsmen. … One of the party’s most important priorities in the next stage is to strengthen national cohesion. We can only succeed in that by using the organizations and the trade unions, which are the most important tools to achieve this [objective] because they represent the grass roots.”

Assad stressed the need for “a critical review of the performance of the party and its cadres in order to build on the positives and overcome the negatives and their effects, and to open channels of communication between the leaders of the Baath Party and the grassroots to deepen the [party’s] interaction with the citizens.”

According to SANA, Assad gave a political analysis about “the war against the Syrian people and the latest developments in the Arab and international attitudes in this regard, in addition to the party’s role during this phase. … The history of struggle of the Baath party should be the basis of its ongoing development. And that requires adhesion to reality and the promotion of a culture of dialogue and voluntary popular work.”

A subcommittee selected the new committee members, which included Assad as regional secretary-general of the party, Parliament Speaker Jihad al-Lahham, Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, the president of the student union, Ammar Saati, and the president of the trade union, Mohamed Shaaban Azzouz.

The new committee included the ministers of electricity, Imad Khamis; public works, Hussein Arnous; and justice, Najem al-Ahmad. Those chosen from among the heads of the party branches were Hilal Hilal Amin from Aleppo, Rakan al-Shoufi from Suwaida, Fairuz Moussa from Al-Baath University in Homs, and the former secretary of the Hama branch, Abdel Nasser al-Shafi. Only one head of a governorate was named: the governor of Quneitra Malek Ali. One ambassador was named: Syrian Ambassador to Egypt Youssef Ahmad. The new committee included the secretary-general of parliament, Abdul Muti Mashlab, and the information minister’s associate Khalaf al-Mouftah.

The new committee will meet to choose a new regional assistant secretary to succeed Mohammed Saeed Bakhtian. It may be Amin “in honor of Aleppo and its steadfastness in the face of the enemies of Syria,” according to what high-level sources told As-Safir. The same sources denied planning any changes in the cabinet. Earlier changes to Halqi’s cabinet were because of special conditions and were not linked to partisan changes.

The 16-member committee will soon elect the heads of the regulatory and service offices of the party. The party oversees those offices’ activities in the public and private sectors. Assad directed the new leadership to hold a regional conference this year, after repeated delays due to the security situation or political calculations.

The removal of Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa from the Baath command was expected, but his removal may indicate that he may be replaced as vice president as well.

The new Baath Central Committee is composed of 16 members, including Assad, instead of 15 for the previous command, which was elected on June 9, 2005. The previous committee included former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani and National Security Chief Hisham Bakhtiar, who were killed in the explosion of the “crisis cell” in Damascus on July 18, 2012. The new command has no security and military figures.

There is a general impression among party members that they must be effective in the state structure because of the betrayals that happened. Although the last constitution separated the party and the state, that part of the constitution was not implemented because of war.

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