A state of war is necessarily the antithesis of a peaceful democratic process and the longer a war drags on, the more weary every party to that war becomes over the prospect of seeing their military gains discarded at the ballot box. But when it comes to Syria, the only faction in the conflict that has any democratic legitimacy in the first place is the legal Syrian government. The Syrian government is comprised of an elected 250 person People’s Council which includes both ruling and opposition members and Syria of course has a President elected directly by the people.
No other faction to the Syria conflict can say this, whether it be the Takfiri terrorist factions who function more or less as foreign funded gangs or Kurdish terrorist factions which function as foreign funded gangs with the added element of a Trotskyist cult like atmosphere that is totally out of touch with 21st century realities.
Nevertheless, because of the violence implicit in the conflict which has gripped Syria for seven years, all sides are afraid to some degree, of putting down their weapons and picking up a ballot paper. However, when it comes to testing the will of all Syrian citizens, the legitimate government has the least to fear.
When democracy rejects American ambitions
While the US claims the terms “freedom and democracy” as part of its national ideology and character, the fact of the matter is that some major democratic votes which took place comparatively recently have shown that when people are actually given the chance to exercise a real democratic vote, they do not vote for the option preferred by the United States.
In March of 1991, Soviet voters, participated in a referendum where 77% voted to remain part of a single state called the Soviet Union. While the US claimed that certain ethnic groups boycotted the referendum, the over all voter turnout was 80%. This means that the so-called “boycott” was actually far smaller than those who decided to stay home in the 2016 US Presidential election where turn out was only 55.7%.
In 1999, Yugoslav voters within the Republic of Serbia were asked to vote on whether they wanted foreign mediation in the crisis in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. Here, 96% of voters rejected any foreign intervention with a turnout of 73%.
More recently, in 2014, 90% of the people of Donetsk voted in favour of self-rule with a turn out of 74.8%, while in neighbouring Lugansk 96% of residents voted for self-rule with a voter turnout of 75%.
While the referenda in Donetsk and Lugansk were ignored by both the US and The Russian Federation, a similar referendum in Crimea in which 97% of voters elected to join the Russian Federation with a voter turnout of 83%, was accepted and acted upon by Russia while the results remain either ignored or rejected by both US and EU officials.
The case for Syria
At the moment, a combination of foreign powers and terrorist groups who are foreign funded and in many cases comprised of foreign fighters are barking about what the future of the Syrian Arab Republic should be. Thus far, those who have been most successful in dictating what the future trajectory of Syrian governance should be are either those who scream the loudest who or even more worryingly, those who kill the most people.
But as the war against Takfiri terrorism winds down in Syria, rather than argue about the future of Syria from a theoretical perspective, why not simply have a series of referenda where Syrians themselves can vote on what they want for their country?
As more and more of Syria is now calm with law and order slowly returning to places that had previously been occupied by terrorist groups, it would be entirely possible for Syria to organise a referendum asking a series of questions about the future of Syria with the Astana group partners Russia, Iran and Turkey supervising the vote to ensure that it is conducted peacefully and without irregularities.
The following questions are just some examples of what could be asked:
1. Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Syrian Arab Republic as a renewed united republic in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any confessional or ethno-confessional background will be fully guaranteed?
2. Do you consider it necessary it rewrite the Syrian constitution to remove the Arab character of the Syrian state from any future constitutional settlement?
3. Do you consider it necessary for the presence of foreign troops to remain in the country after the current conflict in order to ensure the peace? Please vote Yes or No in respect of the presence of the following foreign regimes with troops or proxies in Syria
a. The State of Israel
b. The United States of America
c. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
d. The French Republic
e. The State of Qatar
f. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
g. The Islamic Republic of Iran
h. The Russian Federation
i. The Republic of Turkey
4. Do you consider it necessary to retain a constitutional clause which makes the liberation of Palestine part of Syria’s formal legal obligations in the Arab world?
5. Are you in favour of creating a United Arab Confederation with the Republic of Iraq?
So long as the Astana partners can guarantee the safety and legitimacy of such a multi-question referendum, there is absolutely no reason not to settle the major questions of the Syrian conflict in this manner. The only argument that could be made in opposition to such a vote is that the Syrian people are not capable of deciding their own destiny. Such an argument would of course be in contravention of the Russo-Turkish authored UN Security Council Resolution 2336 which calls for Syrians to determine their own political destiny. The resolution passed unanimously in December of 2016.