Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Nouri al-Maliki

Highs: Despite seeing his coalition lose seats in Iraq's March 7 parliamentary elections, Iraq's incumbent Prime Minister looks poised to retain his mandate following an extraordinary political stalemate: for some eight months after the polls, disputes impeded the formation of a new government. Maliki stayed in power and toughed out the deadlock and, following a deal some say was brokered more in Tehran's corridors of power than Baghdad's, was nominated on Nov. 11 once more to lead the government.

Lows: Maliki's opponents, not least Ayad Allawi, whose coalition of more secular and Sunni parties won more seats than Maliki's largely Shi'a bloc, are still fuming. Whatever Maliki's new government may look like, it'll be one marked by fragile alliances, political brinkmanship and a shadow of sectarian tensions. Revelations in WikiLeaks' Iraq war logs, published in October, counted thousands of previously unreported civilian casualties, many at the hands of Maliki's state security forces. It's bad press the controversial politician could ill afford.

Ishaan Tharoor