A year after the war, secular democrats are overshadowed and outmanoeuvred One spends his time shuttling between mosques and markets, from poor slums to middle-class neighbourhoods. The other spends his days moving between his well-guarded house, his well-guarded office and the impenetrable chambers of the Iraqi Governing Council. Hassan al-Zergani, a propagandist for firebrand preacher Moqtada Sadr, greets the locals. Naseer Kamel Chaderji, a member of Iraq's Governing Council and head of the secular National Democratic Party, meets his 24 council colleagues and officials of the US-led occupation force. As Mr Zergani and his fellow Islamists organise political armies, Mr Chaderji and his few moderate, democratic allies - which include former foreign minister Adnan Pachachi - attend conferences. A year after a war that was meant to inject democracy into the Middle East, Iraq's secular democrats have been overshadowed, outmanoeuvred and out-financed by religious groups with Islamist political agendas. 'Iraq was always a secular society,' said Joost Hiltermann, a Middle East specialist at the International Crisis Group. 'Whether it can retain that is a matter of how much the Islamist parties will grow. If people like Chaderji and Pachachi stand on the sidelines watching, instead of organising, you're going to have Islamic groups winning by default.' Utilising mosques, donations and Shia traditions, which obscure the lines between religious and political leadership, religious leaders have put together impressive social outreach programmes, militias and political groups that are the envy of the secular political groups. 'The religious parties got a head start on everyone because when security descended into chaos they were the ones who provided some services,' said Feizal Istrabadi, a legal adviser to Mr Pachachi. Iraq's religious political parties - which include the Shi'ite al-Dawa Party, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Hezbollah, the Imam Sadr Foundation and the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party - appear to invest more zeal in their politicking than the liberals. In Sadr City, the rundown Shia slums of Baghdad, thousands of men have already lined up to join 'Mahdi's Army', a militia which patrols mosques, schools and health clinics. 'Iraq's liberals have a lack of resources, organisation and - in some cases - leadership,' said Barham Salih, a Kurdish political leader. Some religious conservatives say, however, that Iraq's secular parties have little presence because they have little popular support. One opinion poll conducted by the Independent Institute for Administration and Society Studies in Iraq showed that 85 per cent of Iraqis supported a constitution drawing on Islamic law. Others say the non-religious moderates, many of them exiles such as Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Alawi who lived abroad for decades, have no legitimacy. Often educated abroad, Iraq's moderate politicians generally have little contact with ordinary people. 'They're either technocrats or elite people,' said Mr Hiltermann. These are not the types of people used to pressing flesh and kissing babies.' Secular leaders say they have started organising, opening offices in different parts of the country and uniting to create non-ideological liberal democratic parties. But even they realise they face a huge challenge.