Answer: Quite a lot. Short-term measures included restoring subsidies and issuing transfer payments to poor families. Long-term measures have included ushering in a new constitution that eliminated the Baath party’s political monopoly thereby paving the way for multi-party parliamentary elections, and eventually to Syria’s first multi-candidate Presidential elections in June 2014. 

Leading up to the outbreak of war there had been popular discontent over the effects of the drought, and over what was perceived to be the gradual erosion of Syria’s welfare state resulting in increased corruption, inequality, corporate cronyism, unemployment, and inflation.

For more on the specifically domestic causes of discontent in Syria, please click here. 

What follows is a timeline of the Syrian government’s responses to popular demands:

17th of January, 2011: Prior to the anti-government insurgency, and in response to popular pressure, the government “increased the heating oil allowance for public workers by 72 percent to the equivalent of $33 a month”

9th of February, 2011: The government lifts its ban on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, which had been in place since 2007. 

13th of February, 2011: The government, through its newly established National Social Aid Fund, begins offering transfer payments to help Syria’s 420,000 poorest families

15th of February, 2011: The government “reduc[es] duties on a range of basic foodstuffs including rice, tea, powdered milk, coffee and bananas. It also lowered taxes on vegetable oil, margarine, unroasted coffee and sugar”.

17-18th of March, 2011: The insurgency is launched in Daraa marking the beginning of the war

23rd of March, 2011: After sending a delegation to Daraa to investigate events, President Assad sacks the unpopular Governor of Daraa, Faysal Kalthum, and orders the release of the fifteen teenagers who were detained for graffitying anti-government slogans.  

20th of April, 2011: The government repealed the forty-eight year old state of emergency that had given police sweeping powers to carry out pre-emptive arrests and detain suspects.

20th of June, 2011: President Assad announces a national dialogue to begin a process of constitutional reform. One of the major demands is for an end to the constitutional privileges afforded to the Baath party. 

26th of February, 2012: A constitutional referendum is held asking the electorate whether they approved the changes made to the constitution.

  • 14.6 million Syrians were eligible and registered to vote out of a population of 23 million
  • 8.4 million Syrians voted (57 percent participation rate)
  • 7.5 million Syrians voted ‘yes’ for the new constitution (89 percent of the vote)

The new constitution, which replaced the one adopted in 1973, embodied many of the parliamentary and presidential reforms demanded by the democratic opposition. For more on Syria’s constitutional changes, click here.

7th of May, 2012: Syria’s parliamentary elections are held according to the new constitution to determine the composition of the 250 seat People’s Council.

  • 10.1 million Syrians were eligible and registered to vote out of a population of 23 million
  • 5.2 million Syrians voted (51 percent participation rate)
  • The National Progressive Front won 168 seats (of which the Baath party won 134 seats)
  • The Popular Front for Change and Liberation won 5 seats
  • Independent candidates won the remaining 77 seats

Unlike the previous parliamentary elections, this time an opposition coalition of political parties, called the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, contested the elections against the Baath Party led National Progressive Front.

For more on the new constitution, see ‘How has Syria reformed its constitution?‘ 

 3rd of June, 2014: The first multi-candidate election according to the new constitution is held. It is contested between three candidates, the incumbent President Bashar Al Assad, Hassan Al Nour, and Maher Al Hajjar. 

  • 15.8 million Syrians were eligible and registered to vote out of a population of 23 million
  • 11.6 million Syrians voted for three Presidential candidates (73 percent participation)
  • 10.3 million Syrians voted for the incumbent President Assad (88 percent of the vot)

Also see, ‘What do the Syrian people want?

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