The first serious move after months of promised reform, the Syrian government today announced that it was ending its near 50-year ban on opposition political parties, though with a number of caveats.
The new law resembles the laws under Mubarak in Egypt, allowing opposition parties but forbidding any based on religion, region, or ethnicity. This would keep the Kurds from forming parties, as well as preventing the growing Islamist movement from doing so.
In practice this will likely keep any opposition parties secular and small. A demand that they accept the current constitution, which explicitly ensures Ba’athist rule, will also keep participation limited.
So too will months of violent crackdowns, as a number of protest movement leaders are already rejecting the new law, though surely an improvement from the old one-party system, as too little, and much too late.