Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party

Published 3rd April, 2012

The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party was founded in 1947 by Michel Afleq in Syria. It describes itself as centre-left and believes in Arab nationalism, Arab Socialism and Pan-Arabism.

Originally founded as a regional party with branches in other countries including Iraq and Lebanon, the party absorbed the Syrian Arab Socialist Party in 1953 and took its current name.

The first elections which record the Ba’ath Party are those of 1954 when it took 22 of 140 seats in the national parliament. In 1961 the party dropped to 20 seats out of a possible 172.

In 1963 the Ba’ath party held a coup in which it took control of the government and has been in power in Syria ever since. In 1970 there was an internal coup which saw the leadership change to Hafez al-Assad. He won the 1971 presidential election in which he was the only candidate with 99.2% of the vote. There were nominal plebiscites in 1978, 1985, 1991 and 1999 where Hafez al-Assad won 99% or 100% of the votes.

In 2000 Hafez al-Assad died and on 10th July 2000 Bashar al-Assad, his son was elected unopposed with 99.7% of the vote. He was re-elected unopposed in 2007 with 97.62% of the vote.

The Ba’ath Party became part of the National Progressive Front in 1972. This secured them control of parliament and in every election thereafter they won more than half the seats allocated in parliament.

The National Progressive Front did allow for some smaller parties to participate on the understanding that they recognised the leading role of the Ba’ath party.

Elections in 1973 gave the Ba’ath party 122 of 186 seats; in 1977 they took 126 of 195 seats, in 1981 that went up to 127 of 195 seats and in 1986 it stood at 130 of 195 seats. In the 1990 election the number of seats in parliament rose to 250. The party took 134 seats in the 1990 election and then 135 seats in the 1994, 1998 and 2003 elections, dropping just one seat in 2007.

The party has a very strict structure which includes an Inspection and Control Committee introduced in 1980.

The party is not affiliated to any international organisations but it does have branches in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Sudan and Yemen.

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