Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is looking to extend his reach with party gains on the provincial level in elections Saturday, the New York Times reports. But despite his assurances that “the iron centralization has ended,” many Iraqis fear a return to rule by a single leader with power focused in Baghdad—awakening echoes of Saddam Hussein.
Maliki’s life, marked by long political exile, has accustomed him to working in secret and fostered a sense of general distrust. He has built two armed outfits that report directly to him, prompting MPs to complain that “the country is being militarized.” Meanwhile, alliances with tribal leaders draw further comparisons to Saddam. Still, polls give Maliki the highest favorable rating of any Iraqi politician.