Hoping that governmental reform can end a year of violence, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that new, multi-party parliamentary elections will be held on May 7.
The vote will be only the third public legislative vote in Syria since 2000, and the first that multiple parties will be allowed to take part.
As with the February referendum vote that paved the way for the May elections, members of the Syrian opposition plan on boycotting the parliamentary elections. Opposition groups have rebuked Assad's reforms and said they will only settle for the president's resignation.
Of course we will boycott the elections because they will be fixed. But this is not a main focus for us. What we want is real change with a real presidential election, which Assad would surely lose, Melhem al-Droubi, a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian National Council told Reuters.
The United States has also decried Assad's plan.
Parliamentary elections for a rubber-stamp parliament in the middle of the kind of violence that we're seeing across the country -- it's ridiculous, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday.
Under the new reforms, political parties based on profession, region or religion -- such as the Muslim Brotherhood -- will be banned.
Meanwhile, the Arab League and United Nations envoy Kofi Annan have demanded concrete proposals from Assad's government on how to stop the unrest in Syria.
Once I receive their answer we will know how to react, Annan said. Let me say that the killings and the violence must cease.
The former U.N. Secretary General also met last week with members of the Syrian opposition in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss a peaceful settlement of the 12 month-long crisis. Annan said the meeting went well, although the Syrian National Council refused to meet with Assad for negotiations.