When national protests broke out in Iraq at the beginning of 2011, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki responded with a carrot and stick approach. One of his attempts to appease the masses was to say that he would not run for a third term. Now that the demonstrations have largely disappeared, the premier is reneging on his promise.
|During protests in early 2011, Premier Maliki said he would not run for a third term. He has now gone back on those remarks (BBC)|
Protests broke out in Iraq in January 2011. Across the country’s major cities, people were seen demanding basic services like electricity, complaining about corruption and arbitrary arrests, and demanding jobs, amongst other things. Clerics began warning that Iraq was seeing the same types of outbursts as other countries in region such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. In response, Prime Minister Maliki announced that he would not run for at third term at the beginning of February. His operatives quickly qualified that however, saying that the premier had not ruled out becoming premier again, but that he supported changing the constitution to limiting the office to two terms. A spokesman added that Maliki would not be premier again if he failed to achieve his goals. This was one of many remarks that Maliki made during the early months of the year when discontent was brewing across the nation, and spilling out into the streets. As it increased in intensity, the prime minister made more and more promises to try to appease the public. His ultimate goal was to stop the activists however, not actually reform the government.
Maliki’s remarks during the height of the protests proved to be just words. At the beginning of December, a legal adviser to Maliki told the press that he had the right to run for a third term if he wanted. There is no Iraqi law stating how many times someone can be the premier, and it is not included in the 2005 constitution either. That being said, the adviser’s press briefing showed that Maliki’s earlier statements about not seeking to stay in office after the next election was just rhetoric. The premier has no intention of stepping down or giving up power, and only wanted to calm the masses.
The prime minister has successfully out maneuvered all of his rivals and allies, and is increasingly centralizing power around him. Given his current position, there was no reason to believe that he would give it all up, because of protests that have largely subsided. Saying that he would not seek a third term was simply one of many promises that Maliki made at that time to get people off the streets, so that he could go back to consolidating his hold over the country. For a short period, it appeared that Iraq might face the same changes as occurred in other neighboring countries during the Arab Spring. The prime minister was able to tackle them just as he has his opponents, and the demonstrations brought about no real changes to the country.
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Latif, Nizar, “Iraqis step up protests in job and food crisis,” The National, 2/6/11
Sly, Liz, “Iraq’s Maliki says he won’t seek 3rd term, in possible reverberations from Egypt,” Washington Post, 2/5/11
Al-Wannan, Jaafar, “Maliki might seek a third term,” AK News, 12/1/11