Syria's President has decreed to hold a referendum later this month for a new Constitution that would effectively end nearly 50 years of single party rule, said state media on Wednesday.

“President Bashar al-Assad issued today a decree setting Sunday, February 26, as the date for the referendum on the proposed Constitution,” the official SANA news agency reported.

Mr. Assad has said the Constitution would usher in a “new era” for Syria, the agency reported. Under the new charter, freedom is “a sacred right” and “the people will govern the people” in a multi-party democratic system based on Islamic law, state television reported.

The proposed Constitution does away with Article 8 of the old charter which declared the Baath party, in power since 1963, as the “leader of the state and society”.

Falls short

But it fell short of what was required to appease the opposition in Syria, said Paul Salem, head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre.

“Political reform is a process that needs some basic elements. It must include the opposition which has not been the case,” Mr. Salem told AFP in Beirut.

“It has to be based on negotiation, agreement, consent. And holding a referendum, like holding an election in any country, requires stability... it also logistically takes time,” he said.

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