Iraq election: Will Prime Minister Maliki lose his job?
With 80 percent of the Iraq election votes counted, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is neck and neck with former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Even if Maliki wins the popular vote, he may not be able to hold together a coalition government.
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"The State of Law alliance is directly tied to the persona of Maliki, so nominating somebody else is a betrayal to the voters," says Sajah Qaddouri, a Dawa Party candidate from Maliki's coalition. "If the other political blocs forced or imposed another character, this is an appropriation of our rights. But Mr. Maliki would accept the nomination of someone else if it's in the interest of the future of Iraq. For now, we don't have a substitute. We respect the will of the people. But if the future of Iraq requires us changing Maliki, we'd change him."Skip to next paragraph
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To his supporters, Maliki is the leader who stood up to fellow Shiites — followers of the militant cleric Muqtada al Sadr — in order to quash militia violence and impose a semblance of order on his anarchic, long-suffering nation. A conservative Shiite guerrilla in his opposition days, Maliki has rebranded himself a nonsectarian centrist, courting voters who'd grown alarmed at the extremism of Iraq's leading politicians.
His detractors, however, have portrayed him at various times as an American puppet, an Iranian proxy, a grandstander given to authoritarian whims and a die-hard Islamist who still reverts to sectarian talk when it's politically expedient. Those detractors form a mosaic of Iraq's biggest forces, including some prominent Kurds, Allawi, most Sunnis and almost every other large Shiite grouping: the Sadrists, the Fadhila Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
"The last man standing will be prime minister, and Maliki will be shot down by the Kurds, Allawi, ISCI and the Sadrists," says a senior candidate from a rival Shiite party, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive topic. "...The Americans now will face a huge problem. Any prime minister will not be strong. They'll all have burdens. I don't think any Cabinet will survive four years."
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent. Special correspondent Mohammed al Dulaimy contributed to this article.)
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Read what McClatchy's Iraqi staff has to say at Inside Iraq