Syria says voters approve new constitution

BEN HUBBARD ZEINA KARAM Associated Press Published:

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syria says voters have approved a new constitution in a vote that the West has dismissed as a "farce" meant to justify deadly crackdowns on dissent.

Syrian state TV said Monday that 89 percent of voters approved the new document while nine percent rejected it. Less than two percent of the ballots were ruled invalid. It put turnout at 57 percent of eligible voters.

President Bashar Assad has presented the new charter as a step toward reform.

The new constitution -- in theory -- allows other political parties to compete with Assad's ruling Baath party, and imposes a two-term limit on the president. But Assad's time served so far doesn't count, meaning he could remain in office until 2028.

Opposition groups boycotted Sunday's vote. Violence elsewhere prevented polling.