The NYT has a maybe whither Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki piece in today’s paper, quoting one fellow who said Maliki and his gang are “fighting for their lives.” The predicted outcome: Maliki, still popular, might get the most votes in the election, but he’s pissed so many people off, he won’t be able to keep his job as prime minister.
Maliki’s political troubles, I think, will be prevalent for any Iraqi leader who might want to bridge the sectarian divide. Some of Maliki’s friends say he really wanted to be a leader of nationalist Iraq, but he wasn’t able to pull it off. In fact, the more he tried to become non-sectarian, the more he alienated his sectarian allies, so then he had to backtrack, which then alienated his secular allies…Leaving him with no allies. This dilemma, I think, is sort of the tricky political formula in Iraqi politics. There is some alleged and earnest popular support for non-sectarian politics, but the sectarian forces are still so strong in government, it makes acting non-sectarian extremely difficult. To be able to bridge this divide, Iraq probably needs a very strong leader, and I don’t see any of them really waiting in the wings at the moment. Per one of Maliki’s friends:
Mr. Shabander, the lawmaker, said that Mr. Maliki sincerely believed in overcoming the country’s sectarian divide but that the politics of the de-Baathification forced him to cover his Shiite flank. “The prime minister was not strong,” he said, “because he retreated easily.”
Tellingly, Mr. Maliki has delivered most of his campaign speeches in the south, where he is competing for Shiite votes against a largely Shiite coalition that after the 2005 election helped select him as prime minister.