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Maliki-Sadr rivalry intensifies ahead of Iraqi elections

Both Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr may be vying for Iran's backing in next year's elections.
Iraqi Shi'ite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (C) takes part in Friday prayers at the Kufa mosque near Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa (IRAQ - Tags: RELIGION) - RTXZHC5
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While the last Iraqi general election in 2010 revolved around the rivalry between the State of Law Coalition, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the Iraqiya List, led by Ayad Allawi, the upcoming elections in April 2014 are more likely to be affected by the worsening conflict between Maliki and Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The latter has recently emerged as a major critic of the prime minister’s policies, even calling Maliki a dictator and advising him to not seek a third term.

With the disintegration of the Iraqiya bloc and the likelihood that the next election will be an intra-communal competition, Sadr and Maliki will compete to win the largest number of Shiite votes, despite the fact that they have different constituencies. Sadr’s support is concentrated in the poor and densely populated Shiite areas, while Maliki has succeeded in securing the support of a large segment of the military, state workers and a considerable segment of the Shiite middle class, in addition to the tribal support that he gained by co-opting some tribal leaders in the south.

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