Maliki Not Above Arresting Rivals as Iraq Election Looms

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2009 10:55 AM CDT
Men sit in crowded cells in a jail in central Baghdad, June 16, 2009.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – PM Nouri al-Maliki looks a lot like a strongman these days, using every lever at his disposal to influence Iraq’s January elections, the Washington Post reports. His men have arrested or threatened political rivals in Diyala province and Basra; last month they even arrested a councilman from the Iraqi Islamic Party. “This is a message,” said one of his colleagues: Cooperate, or else.

Before the last election, the US military intervened to stop Maliki from arresting six candidates. Afterward, he ordered the arrests again, and again the US intervened. But supporters claim the actions are legitimate. They say Maliki’s what Iraq needs: a strong force for law and order. “Maliki has a strong personality,” said one aide. “The constitution gives him great powers.”