A key figure in the Middle East for 2011
Position: Prime minister, Iraq
Biography: Iraq’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 2014 and incumbent prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is pushing for his third consecutive term. His past two terms have been marked by rising oil production and revenues, but these have also been matched by increasing violence, corruption and little apparent rise in the standard of living for ordinary Iraqis.
Given his government’s poor record in delivering basic services, it is hard to see him winning another poll. However, Al-Maliki has proved himself to be adept at playing off his political rivals against each other. He faces a challenge from Osama al-Nujaifi, the Sunni speaker of parliament and Muqtadr al-Sadr, a rival for the Shia vote.
Having spent much of his two terms consolidating the levers of executive power, many fear a third term will simply strengthen Al-Maliki’s grip. This fear will be decisive in the alliances formed in the run-up to the elections.