Politics in the Syrian Arab Republic takes place in the framework of what is officially a parliamentary republic, but what is considered an authoritarian government where the power is in the hands of the President of Syria and his family, all members of the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party which is a cell of the Syrian-led Ba'ath Party (established in 1966 when the original Ba'ath Party was dissolved and split into two). Since coming to power, a disproportionate number of leading positions have been awarded to members of the Alawi sent in a move akin to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party governance in neighbouring Iraq between 1968 and 2003 when persons from Saddam's home town of Tikrit were appointed in prominent roles.

The two presidents who have been in power since 1970 — the late Hafiz al-Asad followed by his son Bashar al-Asad — were approved in plebiscites where there were no other candidates. The President and his senior aides, particularly those in the military and security services, ultimately make most basic decisions in political and economic life, with a limited degree of public accountability. The president issues laws, amends the constitution by decree; appoints ministers, civil servants and military personnel subject to the law; declares war and states of emergency. Decrees issued by the president must be approved by the People's Council to become law, except during a state of emergency which was in force until 21 April 2011 when it was lifted during the 2011 Syrian uprising, (the end of it being one of the key demands of the protesters). The Ba'ath Party is Syria's ruling party and the constitution states that "the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party leads society and the state." At least 167 seats of the 250-member parliament are guaranteed for the National Progressive Front, which is a coalition of the Ba'ath Party and several other much smaller allied parties. The Syrian army and security services maintained a considerable presence in the neighbouring Lebanese Republic from 1975 until April 24, 2005.

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