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Iraqi prime minister won’t seek third term

Maliki also plans to take salary cut

By Liz Sly
Washington Post / February 6, 2011

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BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday that he would 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 would seek a constitutional amendment restricting the number to two.

Maliki began his second four-year term in December, after spending 10 months fending off a challenge from the secular leader Ayad Allawi, whose bloc won two more seats in Parliament than Maliki’s in nationwide elections in March.

His comment coincides with an upsurge of protests across the country demanding better services, jobs, and an end to corruption, apparently inspired by the prodemocracy demonstrations underway in Cairo and those that toppled Tunisia’s long-serving president last month.

Police in Najaf broke up an attempted demonstration in support of the Egyptian people yesterday after Najaf’s governor refused to grant permission.

In another indication that the government is anxious about the fallout from Egypt, Maliki said Friday that he would cut his salary by half. He reportedly earns about $350,000 a year.

No one is calling for the overthrow of the Maliki government, which represents all the major factions chosen by voters in an election judged largely free and fair. The next election isn’t until 2014.

But the protests serve as a reminder that even democratically elected governments aren’t immune to popular unrest if they fail to provide jobs and services.

Maliki’s critics have frequently accused him of dictatorial tendencies. But an official in Maliki’s media office, Ali Musawi, denied that the prime minister is acting in response to the Cairo demonstrations.

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