Vote seen as pivotal test for both Iraq and Maliki

The New York Times reports:

A few months ago, building on genuine if not universal popularity, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki appeared poised to win a second term as Iraq’s prime minister. Now, as Iraqis prepare to vote in parliamentary elections on March 7, his path to another four years in office has become increasingly uncertain, his campaign erratic and, to some, deeply troubling.

Far from consolidating power in the authoritarian manner that has plagued Iraq’s history, Mr. Maliki risks losing it through the ballot box. In a region where the traditional exit from power has been “the coup or the coffin,” as one Western diplomat here put it recently, the election has become a crucial test of Iraq’s post-invasion democracy, and of Mr. Maliki’s own fate.

How he wins — or perhaps more significantly, how he loses — will more than anything else determine the country’s course in the coming years as President Obama carries out his promise to withdraw all American troops.

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