No 3rd term for Maliki?

Various news outlets have reported on recent comments by Nouri al-Maliki stipulating that he will not seek a third term as Iraq’s prime minister. From The Washington Post:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that he will not seek a third term in office, in a sign that even Iraq’s newly installed and democratically elected government may be feeling the heat from the tumult in the streets of Cairo.

“I have personally decided not to seek another term in office after this one, a decision I made at the beginning of my first term,” Maliki said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. Iraq’s new constitution does not set term limits for the prime minister, but Maliki said he will seek a constitutional amendment restricting the number to two.

Subsequent reports indicate that Maliki is more equivocal about his intentions:

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he hasn’t ruled out a third term as premiere, but supports a constitutional change setting two-term limits.

Analysts still await one of the final and ultimately most important tests of Iraq’s new democracy: whether an orderly transfer of power can be effected from one prime minister and party to another. This hurdle was delayed by Maliki’s successful retention of the office and formation of a government last year, despite a slim electoral victory by Ayad Allawi’s Al Iraqiya list in parliamentary elections.

A great deal can happen between now and 2014. Local unrest and the protests in Egypt may have triggered a self-serving declaration, and, like many Iraqi politicians, Maliki is prone to off-the-cuff statements. But his words are vaguely encouraging, specifically the pledge to seek a constitutional amendment enacting term limits for the office.

Iraqi politics at all levels are persistently challenged by a pervasive lack of trust in both competitors and the system itself, a factor which inevitably spurs efforts to maintain position at all costs. A prime minister willingly ceding power via a constitutional amendment would send a powerful message that Iraqi democracy is the real thing. I wouldn’t bet my life savings on it, but one can hope that Maliki follows through, and that the protests in Egypt have as much impact on Iraq as reports of functioning Iraqi democracy may have on the region.

UPDATE: Related:

In its latest effort to defuse public anger amid mass protests, embattled President Hosni Mubarak’s regime set up a committee Tuesday to recommend constitutional changes that would relax presidential eligibility rules and impose term limits.

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