Muqtada al-Sadr (left) the Shia cleric has been especially hostile to the Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki ever since the Iraqi Government took military action to overcome much of the influence of his Mahdi Army from March 2008.
The Shia cleric also has little love for Malaki's main rival in the recent Iraqi Election - Allawi. For Allawi leads a secular grouping which has attracted wide Sunni support
Yet al-Sadr is always willing to take initiatives in Iraq to advance his own corner. The 39 seats his group obtained in the election gives him a bargaining chip he is using to the full.
Over yesterday and today Al-Sadr is running an unofficial referendum from 42 centres in Shia territory to determine who his group of 39 should support for the position of Prime Minister. All Iraqi's around the centres can vote (as below) They can choose from amongst 5 candidates or write in any other choice.
A further advantage of an unofficial referendum is that it has no international observers or official checks to look out for fraud.
Here are the five candidates on al-Sadr's ballot papers. All are Shia and none are Kurds -
1. Maliki the existing Prime Minister whose State of the Law Coalition won 89 seats.
2. Allawi appointed interim Prime Minister May 2004. This time, his list the Iraqi National Movement won 91 seats. But there are legal moves to ban six of those elected.
3. al-Jaafari Prime Minister April 2005 until May 2006. He is Chairman of the Iraqi National Alliance who took 70 seats. Yet his National Reform Trend itself only gained one seat - his own. Muqtada's Group of 39 are also part of this Alliance. al-Jaafari was expelled from the Dawa Party in 2008 for setting up his current Party.
4. Jaafar al-Sadr of the Dawa Party ran on Maliki's ticket with the State of the Law Coalition . He is the son of Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, a leading Ayatollah executed by Saddam Hussain who was also the father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr.
5. Adil Abdul-Mahdi Vice-President of Iraq and with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq who are on the list of the National Iraqi Alliance.
75 seats are held by groups outside those mentioned above.
See Patrick Cockburn on this issue in the Independent. He is the author of "Muqtada Al-Sadr and The Fall Of Iraq" (Faber and Faber, 2008).
UPDATE 5 APRIL - see how Allawi is between a rock and a hard place.
UPDATE 7 APRIL - Jaafar al-Sadr (number 3 above and photo) is reported to have come top in Al-Sadr's unofficial referendum with 24% of the votes. It must have been close because there were 5 candidates, except that write-ins were also allowed.