Bashar al-Assad (Arabic: بشار حافظ الأسد, Baššār al-ʾAsad; born 11 September 1965) is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.
When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar was appointed leader of the Ba'ath Party and the Army, and was elected president unopposed in what the regime claimed to be a massive popular support (97.2% of the votes), after the Majlis Al Sha'ab (Parliament) swiftly voted to lower the minimum age for candidates from 40 to 34 (Assad's age when he was elected). On 27 May 2007, Bashar was approved as president for another seven-year term, with the official result of 97.6% of the votes in a referendum without another candidate.
In his domestic policy, he has been criticised for a disregard for human rights, economic lapses, and corruption. In his foreign policy, Al-Assad is an outspoken critic of the United States and Israel. The Ba'ath Party remains in control of the parliament, and is constitutionally the "leading party" of the state. Until he became president, Bashar al-Assad was not greatly involved in politics; his only public role was head of the Syrian Computer Society, which introduced the Internet to Syria in 2001. Al-Assad was confirmed as president by an unopposed referendum in 2000. He was expected to take a more liberal approach than his father. In an interview he stated that he saw democracy in Syria as 'a tool to a better life' but then argued that it would take time for democracy to come about and that it could not be rushed. Politically and economically, Syrian life has changed only slightly since 2000. Immediately after he took office a reform movement made cautious advances during the Damascus Spring, which led al-Assad to shut down Mezzeh prison and release hundreds of political prisoners. However, security crackdowns commenced again within the year