Syria’s ruling Baath party said Tuesday that it will hold its 11th party congress next month as it faces an unprecedented popular uprising demanding its leadership resign.
“The regional command of the Baath Arab Socialist Party has decided to hold its 11th regional congress during the first week of February,” the official Al-Baath newspaper reported.
The congress, the first for the Baath party since June 2005, comes after the Syrian authorities delayed indefinitely “free” parliamentary elections that were also planned for February.
The announcement came on the same day that French President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad step down for overseeing a “disgusting” crackdown on dissent.
It also comes with the Assad government trying to prove to Arab states that it is implementing a peace accord to end the crackdown on a pro-reform protest movement that has since turned against his rule.
In response to the protests that erupted in mid-March, Assad has announced a series of reforms, including the appointment of a committee in October to draft a new constitution.
The Baath party, in power since 1963, is declared as the “leader of the state and society” under the current charter.
Among other reforms Assad has promised are free elections and limiting the number of terms that a president can serve.
In April, Assad issued decrees to lift the state of emergency in force since 1963, abolish the State Security Court and authorizing peaceful demonstrations under certain conditions
However, Western governments and human rights groups accuse his government of continuing the crackdown which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 5,000 people since March.