Originally an optometrist, al-Assad initally had few political aspirations. Hafez al-Assad had been grooming Bashar's older brother, Basil al-Assad to be the future president. However, Basil died in an automobile accident which in turn made Bashar his father's new heir apparent. When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar inherited the presidency.
He is often characterized as a very "hands-off" president, due to his political inexperience. Some accuse him of being little more than a mere puppet of hardliners from his father's administration.