Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced that Syria will hold a referendum on the new draft constitution on 26 February.

The proposed new constitution will omit the controversial Article 8 in the current constitution, which states that the ruling Baath Party is the “leader of state and society”.

According to a report from Sana, the Syrian national news agency, the draft constitution also states that the president would only be able to hold office for a maximum of two seven-year terms.

Opposition groups in Syria have said they will reject any reform proposals, while the president’s security forces are still attacking civilians.

The decree for the referendum is the first significant move that the president has made to change the state’s governing apparatus since he scrapped the Emergency Law, which Syria had been governed under since Al-Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1963, in April last year.

More than 7,000 people have reportedly been killed by Syrian security forces since the pro-democracy began in March last year, according to human rights activists.