Few of those who joined him, however, are truly national leaders likely to lure major blocs of votes. The coalition did recruit several current ministers and government officials and peeled away several politicians previously allied with Ayad Allawi, who served as interim prime minister for a year after the American invasion and occupation.
That's from Steven Lee Myers' report (New York Times) on the rag-tag, patchwork coalition of left-overs Nouri al-Maliki announced he'd stitched together yesterday. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) add:
Although Maliki attracted some prominent Sunni personalities to his list, the most sought-after -- such as Sheik Ahmed abu Risha, one of the most powerful figures in the western province of Anbar, or members of the Arab nationalist Hadba slate in Nineveh province in the north -- have held out.
Among the Sunni figures joining Maliki was Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman, from the largest tribal group in Anbar, the former heart of Iraq's Sunni insurgency. Sulaiman, like other tribal sheiks who have sought a common understanding with Maliki, views the prime minister as representing the best of the Shiite religious parties who rose to power after 2003.
Last week, Nouri announced he would be announcing his own slate of candidates. Yesterday was the big roll out. Mohammad al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "The announcement, made from a heavily guarded Baghdad hotel and broadcast live on television, ended weeks of speculation over whether Maliki's State of Law bloc would join the Iraqi National Alliance, a more Islamist faction that includes the largest Shiite party and supporters of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr." Alsumaria (link has video of the speech) explains, "Al Maliki pursues efforts to join 30 new political entities and parties to 40 other entities and political figures into the State of Law Coalition that gathers prominent figures mainly first deputy speaker Sheikh Khaled Al Attiye and a number of ministers including Oil Minister Hussein Al Shahristani, and ministers of Education, Health, Tourism, Labor, Immigrants, Youth and Sports as well as Parliament affairs." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on Nouri's speech:
"Today we announce the formation of the State of Law Coalition to contest in the January 16 elections, to build a powerful, secure and independent federal state that would guarantee the people' rights and freedoms, based on justice, equality and the law," Maliki told dozens of politicians and reporters at a gathering held at the al-Rasheed Hotel.
"The birth of State of Law Coalition represents a historic turnout and a typical development in establishing a modern Iraq state based on patriotic principles, far from the policies of marginalization, discrimination and tyranny," Maliki said.
The Iraqi prime minister also called for establishing a "strong central government that has the power of making decisions, which relies on the constitution and dialogue to settle the country's problems."
"We reaffirm that sovereignty, security, foreign policy and running the country's natural wealth will be the responsibility of the central government," Maliki elaborated the coalition's view on the future of Iraq after the landmark elections due in January.
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) points out, "The prime minister will face tough competition in the Shiite south. He enjoyed a surge in popularity there following a military offensive against Shiite militants in the spring of 2008. Since then, Iraqis have grown frustrated with lagging basic services, such as adequate clean water. Mr. Maliki also has been criticized for recent security lapses, including those related to the August bombings."
Title of entry's a nod to Dolly Parton's song.
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