Bashar al-Assad is the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Regional Secretary of the Baath Party, and the son of former President Hafez al-Assad.
Originally trained as a doctor, Assad attended medical school at the University of Damascus Faculty of Medicine. He then went on to get subspecialty training in ophthalmology in London’s academic hospitals. Initially Assad had few political aspirations; his father had been grooming Bashar’s older brother, Basil al-Assad, to be the future president. However, Basil’s death in an automobile accident in 1994 suddenly made Bashar his father’s new heir apparent. When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar was elected President unopposed with apparent massive popular support, after Syria’s Majlis Al Shaa’b (Parliament) swiftly voted to lower the minimum age for candidates from 40 to 34.
Upon becoming President, Bashar al-Assad promised economic and political reforms to Syria, but he has so far delivered little change from the status quo. The Baath Party remains in control of the parliament, and is constitutionally the “leading party” of the state.