The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is expected to deliver a TV address to the nation for the first time since anti-regime protests erupted more than two weeks ago.
Assad, whose Baath party has ruled Syria with an iron hand for almost 50 years, will likely discuss some democratic reforms, including, perhaps, the lifting of emergency rule.
Yesterday, the government’s cabinet resigned.
Assad appointed Naji al-Otari, the former premier, to serve as caretaker prime minister, until a new cabinet is named (reportedly, within 24 hours).
Since the unrest, at least 60 people have been killed, particularly in the southern city of Deraa, where state security forces murdered dozens. Many more have been arrested and detained.
Assad is not necessarily in a weakened position, as evidenced by yesterday’s huge pro-government rally in Damascus which saw people happily carrying placards with his face on it.
The people want Bashar al-Assad, demonstrators chanted, according to Al Jazeera.
Bashar al-Assad is the spine of Syria. Without him, our country will be pushed into chaos, another government supporter said.
Last week, a government spokesman suggested that reforms were imminent.
Protesters also want thousands of political prisoners released; a relaxation of media control by the state and more freedom of speech.
Skeptics counter that the resignation of the government (and the introduction of a new cabinet) would mean very little since real power in the country is concentrated in Assad, his family and the much-feared state security apparatus.