BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are turning up for a self-styled referendum on the nation’s next prime minister.
The voting on Friday and Saturday has no legal authority. But it is widely seen as a way for the cleric to back someone other than his archenemy, incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It’s part of the post-election turmoil following the razor-thin March 7 parliamentary elections. A bloc by secular Ayad Allawi won a two-seat lead over al-Maliki’s group, but neither has a majority to rule alone.
Al-Maliki, who is unpopular with the Sadrists, needs their backing to get enough Shiite support to remain prime minister.
Voters have started coming to the polling tents in Baghdad and Basra, but larger crowds are expected in the afternoon.