By the time the 10th Congress of the Syrian Baath Party was about to begin, there was little consensus on what could happen or which could be Syria’s future status. When Bachar El Assad came to power in 2000, it was obvious that he would follow his father’s policy, modernizing it. Today, the situation has turned more uncertain.
Syria does not maintain diplomatic relations with the United States since the withdrawal of the U.S. AmBa’athador. The future of the relations with Europe is unclear and even Jacques Chirac seems not to be in a hurry to resume them. Syria had to pull out of Lebanon even when the Arab States were talking about normalizing their relationships with Israel.
There were three possible scenarios during the Congress:
- A “Coup d’état with white gloves”: Bachar El Assad would substitute those responsible for the country’s political and economic issues, and launch a big crusade against corruption to strengthen his power.
- An economic and political opening accompanied by a structural transformation of the Baath Party.
- Purely superficial, cosmetic changes.
The opposition considered the third to be the most likely, but actually the second is the more real. In fact, the opening does not affect the supremacy of the Baath Party, as guaranteed in Article 8 of the Constitution. Criticized by the opposition, many think that such article has the advantage of stabilizing the country by consenting to a gradual opening of the political system. The opposition parties won’t be allowed in there using racial, religious or ethnic programs.
This congress should establish the beginning of the division between the Party and the State.

Source
Daily Star (Lebanon)

"Expect very leisurely change from the Baath congress ", by Ziad Haidar, Daily Star, June 6, 2005.