"Though less popular than in 2010, Maliki believes he will benefit from the fear and chaos, presenting himself as the only one capable of guarding his community and saving Iraq. The sectarian conflict becomes another way of waging politics and outlasting competitors."
Baghdad's version of Tahrir Square is far shabbier than Cairo's. It consists of a yellowed park, frequented by vagrants, and sits next to a crowded market, where second-hand appliances, sex videos, and penis enlargement pumps are sold. It was here that Iraq experienced its own Arab Spring in the first half of 2011. Almost every Friday, a few thousand people gathered at Baghdad's Tahrir and in other public squares around the country, from the Shiite-dominated south to the Sunni regions of the north and west. Like their counterparts in Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli, and Damascus, the demonstrators had grievances about the existing political order—complaints about human rights abuses, corruption, and the misuse of oil wealth; but also the lack of jobs, reliable electricity, clean water, and adequate healthcare.
Yet in another respect, the very fact that these peaceful protests were taking place seemed to show how much progress Baghdad had made since the end of the violent civil war in 2008; the protesters included both Shiites and Sunnis, and they were facing off against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who, though a former political exile with a long history of involvement in Shiite political parties, had sought to appear as a non-sectarian figure running a new national government.
Now, as Iraq prepares for its first national election in four years on April 30, it is hard to imagine democracy activists rallying weekly in Iraqi streets.