BAGHDAD — Iraq’s embattled prime minister has pledged to restore “peace and harmony” to the deeply fractured nation, should he win a third term. To give his campaign historical weight, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki selected Saddam Hussein’s daughter to serve as his running mate.
With critics accusing al-Maliki of stoking sectarian divisions favoring his fellow Shiites during his time in office since 2006, he has resisted pressure to step aside and permit the ascension of a unity government.
Late last week, al-Maliki declared, “I have vowed to God that I will continue to fight by the side of our armed forces and volunteers until we defeat the enemies of Iraq and its people.”
Asked for clarification, al-Maliki reiterated that he would not stop at defeating the insurgency that has overwhelmed large swaths of northern and western Iraq. Indeed, he planned to “overwhelm the independent spirit of the common citizens with military might, much as Saddam Hussein did before me.”
Only that way, he said, “would a unified Iraq continue to exist, the water continue to flow, and the oil continue to give our country a say in world affairs.”
Rukia Hussein, the eldest daughter of Saddam Hussein, fled to Jordan during the downfall of her father’s brutal regime. Her return to Iraq as a political figurehead is seen as both a concession to the Sunnis, who held most positions of power during her father’s rule, and an advance for women who had even fewer rights under the old regime than they are afforded currently.
“The al-Maliki/Hussein ticket is a vote for a return to a secure—security state. Some might call such efforts crimes against humanity,” said Hussein dismissively. “I call it enforcing law and order. We can once again be that shining city on a hill if you just join us, fear us, and leave the dirty work of governing to us.”
Members of the reunited Republican Guard were seen at a local rally for al-Maliki passing out novelty Saddam-style moustaches and campaign paraphernalia emblazoned with the slogan, “Yes, BaghDAD Can!”
Political observers suggested displays such as these were designed to play to the English-speaking international audience.
Said Faizah Alghafari, an Iraqi in the crowd, “I can’t say that I completely trust them, but if it’s a choice between breaking the glass ceiling and fearing the shards or breaking my country apart and fearing that I may not have a home, al-Maliki and Hussein have my vote.”