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Maliki remains many Iraqis' top choice as leader

Iraqi men take part in a demonstration to show their support for the call to arms by Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the central Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf on June 13, 2014Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains many Iraqis’ top choice to lead the country even though militants have overrun large swathes of territory and his domestic and international support is eroding. A June 13 statement by the country’s most senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, calling on Iraqis to join state forces battling jihadists, has helped rally Iraq’s majority Shiites around Maliki and bolstered his image as a bulwark against a perceived Sunni takeover. “I think support for him has gone up,” said student Abbas Saadeq, 21, citing what he saw as backing for the prime minister from Iraq’s most senior Shiite clerics, or marjaiya. Posters of the heavy-jowled leader still crowd Baghdad’s skyline and checkpoints after April’s parliamentary election, which his State of Law coalition dominated despite a litany of attacks in the run-up to the poll.

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