* Maliki foes failed at vote of no confidence
* Campaign comes before provisional elections
* Shi'ite leader in strong position
By Suadad al-Salhy
BAGHDAD, Nov 13 Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki's rivals have started campaigning for term limits in
an attempt to block the Shi'ite leader running for a third term
in 2014, opening up a new battle in the country's fragile
Since the last American troops left Iraq nearly a year ago,
the country's Shi'ite, Sunni Muslim and ethnic Kurdish parties
have been caught up in a power-sharing stalemate that has left
key oil and investment laws paralysed in parliament.
Kurdish parties, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc and even some
rivals in Maliki's own Shi'ite coalition failed earlier this
year to trigger a vote of no confidence against a prime minister
whom they accuse of consolidating power at their expense.
Those same factions have now handed a proposed law to
parliament that would limit the mandate of prime minister to two
terms, challenging a leader well-known for his skilful
manoeuvring through Iraq's shifting alliances.
"A proposed law was presented to the parliament with the
support of more than 130 lawmakers," said Amir al-Kinani, a
lawmaker with Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Sadrist bloc and
a member of the legal committee.
Maliki's opponents would need a simple majority in the
325-seat Council of Representatives to pass the law. But in a
country of often fickle political loyalties and divided parties
securing that support faces huge challenges. For a factbox on
Iraq's political factions click.
Political blocs are already jockeying for position before
provincial government elections in April, aware that a strong
showing will position them for the national election in 2014.
That, his allies say, will likely allow Maliki room to
horse-trade and play already splintered factions against the
other in the debate over term limits. His Shi'ite coalition
still has the strongest position in parliament.
"We will challenge it from the beginning and even if it is
passed we will appeal in Federal Court," said Abbas al-Biyati, a
lawmaker from Maliki's State of Law coalition.
Iraq's political outlook is often complicated by sectarian
tensions, violence from a stubborn insurgency and by
intervention from the country's neighbours who often step into
the fray to back one bloc or another.
Maliki last April emerged unscathed from one of his toughest
battles since his government was formed 23 months ago after his
foes failed to muster the required ballots for a vote of no
confidence to expel him from office.
His allies say they will try to split support for the term
limit campaign by adjusting the law to include other posts such
as those of Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud
Barzani, a Kurd, and parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a
Sunni leader from the Iraqiya block.
"This is a very sensitive issue," said a senior lawmaker
from Barzani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan lawmakers.