Maliki Charts Post-Sectarian Politics in Iraq
Shiite PM teams with secular Sunnis and even militant cleric
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2009 7:04 AM CDT
Followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, seen on poster at center, attend Friday prayers in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Feb. 20, 2009.    (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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(Newser) – The Shiite party of PM Nouri al-Maliki has allied itself with Sunni political figures and even Moqtada al-Sadr, a major departure from earlier politics that followed ethnic and sectarian lines. writes Anthony Shadid in the Washington Post. All support a strong central government and advocate a united Iraq over a federated state—and they may even run as a grand coalition in key parliamentary elections later this year. Six weeks after provincial elections, "there is a new political map," said one Sunni who advises Maliki.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, religious Shiites and Kurds dominated Iraq, while Sunnis largely boycotted the political process. But Maliki, whose strength has grown over three years, has abandoned the Shiite bloc for secular and religious parties that support his ideology. While on the provincial level the coalitions may work, running as a united front in national elections remains up in the air. As one Sadrist said, "Yes, there are big obstacles between us. They can all be bridged."