Damascus: In his fourth appearance before the Syrian public since riots began last March, President Bashar Al Assad will address the nation, this time through an interview rather than speech, tonight after iftar.
According to sources in Damascus speaking to Gulf News, the interview will be his first on Syrian TV since coming to power in July 2000. It is actually the first for a Syrian President with Syrian TV in 41-years.
Al Assad's "live interview" is expected to be "short and straight to the point" said sources in the Syrian capital, claiming that he will lay a "road map" for upcoming reforms between now and early 2012.
The interview, however, will not have any dramatic revelations as many would expect. There will be no canceling of Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution, which says that the Baath Party is "leader of state and society."
Despite all calls for lifting that Article, authorities are adamant that "it takes time." They add that it requires the agreeent of parliament and cannot be lifted unilaterally by the President.
Al Assad is expected tonight to create a constitutional commission that would draft a new constitution for Syria, replacing the current one that has been in-place since 1973. The commission will "review everything in the current constitution, including Article 8."
Last week, the Syrian President met with the 90-member Central Committee of the Baath Party to discuss the future of Article 8. In a unilateral vote, they all decided that it would be wiser to re-write the entire Constitution than to single out Article 8 and cancel it.
Additionally, Al Assad will stick by the official line, about "armed groups" targeting Syrian security and personnel in different Syrian cities. This has been the official line since riots began in mid-March, used since April 24 to justify sending the Syrian Army into hotspots like Daraa, a city in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
He is also expected to speak about the "outside conspiracy" targeting Syria, and respond to US President Barack Obama, who last Thursday, called on him to resign. He is expected to praise the "steadfastness of the Syrian people" who worked together "to defeat the conspiracy" in order to avoid "spreading sectarianism, chaos, and disintegration of the Syrian state." Syrian-Arab and Syrian-Turkish relations are also expected to be discussed, as well as how Syria will deal with the UN if a resolution is passed against Damascus.
Al Assad is also expected to announce that the upcoming presidential elections of 2014 will take place as planned, where multiple candidates will be allowed to run against him.
That of course will require a major constitutional amendment since currently, it is the Regional Command of the Baath Party that nominates a president, who is then elected to power by a "yes-no" vote through a popular plebiscite. Presidential hopefuls cannot simply "nominate" themselves for office without approval of the Baath.
Al Assad will speak about the new political party law, signed by him in early August, which breaks the Baath Party monopoly over political life that has been in-place since 1963. If parliamentary elections take place this year, multi-party campaigns and election lists will be introduced without any quota for the ruling Baath party.