Saddam Hussein rose to power by maintaining his allegiance to the radical, Pan-Arab Ba'ath Party and ruthlessly eliminating all rivals. He joined the party as a teenager in Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein was involved with a plot to assassinate then-Prime Minister Abdul Karim Kassem in 1959 and had to flee to Egypt. A succession of coups and political upheaval finally put the Ba'ath Party in power in 1963. There was a counter-coup and Hussein was imprisoned until 1966, when the party came back to power under Hassan Al-Bakr, who was a relative of Hussein.
Saddam Hussein occupied several posts in the government that helped to consolidate his power base. When Al-Bakr retired in 1979, Hussein was named as president and to consolidate his power, he promptly had his political rivals executed. At the same time, he increased oil revenues and spent money on schools, hospitals and other social programs.