IRAQ: Maliki -- the view from the street
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki announced a new coalition for national elections on Thursday that aims to break with the basic template of sectarian politics that has driven Iraqi politics since 2003.
Questions linger about the extent of Maliki’s evolution and his ability to sustain a long-term coalition of such disparate interests, including secular nationalists, Sunni tribal sheiks and Shiite religious nationalists.
However, interviews in Baghdad revealed both the enduring appeal of Maliki’s message and the continuing hold of sectarian-based identity politics on the population.
Below are the comments of some Iraqis interviewed by The Times in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Adhiniyah, once a fount for Iraq’s Sunni insurgency.
Khudair al-Ubaidi, a 71-year-old retired lawyer:
Of course I will vote for Maliki. He is very decent man because he is enforcing and implementing the laws and this is what our country truly needs. Three years ago, the situation was chaotic in Baghdad. Gradually with the efforts of the prime minister and the security forces, which started with the enforcement of law security operation, our streets became safer, our neighborhoods were secured and most importantly the sectarian strife ended, thanks to Maliki. I would prefer to vote in accordance with an open list system because I like to choose Maliki himself, as I don’t have enough confidence in the other personalities within his slate, although he has not announced his bloc yet.
Maliki is the most suitable personality available in our political system. He is not the politician of our dreams because still after four years of ruling, our circumstances are not perfect. We do get explosions and significant blasts every now and then. Our infrastructure and services have not shown any great improvements, but we can say with confidence that security-wise things are better, so with Maliki, hope has returned to us.
Mustafa Abed Latif, a student in his final year of business school at Baghdad university:
Nouri al-Maliki accomplished a lot; the development of the country. He established a good degree of security, eradicated sectarianism, but we are Sunnis after all. We need to vote for those who will represent us in the parliament: to protect our rights when the time comes. If the Shiites vote for a Sunni politician, I will vote for a Shiite…. I have to pick the personality that will represent me from my sect: a moderate political personality like Iyad al-Samarai, a professional, nationalist. He demonstrated his true intentions and his good work when he headed the parliament.
Mullak Abed Wihab Azzawi, a 58-year-old housewife, out shopping:
I will vote for [Sunni politician] Saleh Mutlaq. He is a fair man with [a sense of] justice. He seeks the rights for Sunnis. He is a good man and he will take good care of us. I don’t want Maliki because he belongs to Dawa party which is a sectarian party that belongs to Iran.
Tariq Fawzi, a 46-year-old taxi driver:
The political situation in Iraq is terrible and getting worse. There is ongoing political strife and each party seeks its own interests. It’s a never-ending circle; the struggle will continue, no one cares about the citizens…. I will participate in the elections. I will vote for Nouri al-Maliki, not his party, only him … because he did accomplish something for the country, but the others did nil for the country, a little of security and stability. His policy with the neighboring countries was good. His firm position against Syria made us proud.
-- Caesar Ahmed in Baghdad