Iraq's first nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein took place on 30 January. Here are a number of figures and parties that figured prominently.
Iyad Allawi, Iraq's US-backed interim prime minister, heads the Iraqi National Accord party - a small grouping that owes what influence it has to its prominent leader.
Mr Allawi joined the Baath Party as a young man but fell out with Saddam Hussein, its increasingly dominant figure, in the early 1970s. He fled the country and was injured in a 1978 assassination attempt
believed to have been ordered by the former Iraqi leader.
Commentators note wryly that he has the advantage of being equally mistrusted by everyone, from Washington - which he has criticised - to ordinary Iraqis, who suspect him of being a CIA stooge.
A member of a leading Shia family, he may attract the votes of secular Shias.
Shia cleric Abdel Aziz al-Hakim has a long history of opposition to the rule of Saddam Hussein, and tops the electoral list of the United Iraqi Alliance.
He lived in exile in Iran for more than two decades before returning in April 2003 and serving as a member of the Governing Council.
Sciri leader Abdel Aziz Hakim
He was elected chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) following the assassination of his brother, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim.
He promised Sunnis would be represented in any future government regardless of any election boycott.
Ghazi Yawer, the interim president of Iraq, leads an 80-member list.
He is a prominent Sunni figure and a tribal leader from the northern city of Mosul.
Educated in the US, he usually appears in traditional Arab dress and is considered to have fairly wide support among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups.
A number of cabinet ministers and tribal chiefs are said to be on the list.
Iraqi Vice-President Ibrahim Jaafari of the Islamic Daawa party
Ibrahim Jaafari, a medical doctor, is the official spokesman of the Islamic Daawa Party.
He was based in London until April 2003, before returning to become the Governing Council's first chairman in July 2003.
He was appointed one of two vice-presidents of the interim government.
Ahmed Chalabi is considered one of the prime movers behind the US-led invasion of Iraq due to his closeness with influential figures in Washington - but his relationship with them has soured since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Many blame his Iraqi National Congress for providing apparently unreliable evidence about Iraqi weapons programmes, one of the main justifications for the war.
US troops and Iraqi police raided his home and offices in May 2004, and an arrest warrant was issued for him and a nephew on counterfeiting charges in August.
But Mr Chalabi - a secular Shia from a powerful and wealthy family - is resourceful and may cobble together an alliance of Shia parties to back him in January's polls. If so, he could return to a position of influence.
Adnan Pachachi, like Mr Chalabi, was once seen as a possible president of post-Saddam Iraq, with reports suggesting he was the UN favourite in the spring of 2004.
But the elder statesman - he was foreign minister before Iraq's 1968 Baathist coup - did not have enough support on the Iraqi Governing Council and stood aside.
He heads the Iraqi Independent Democrats, a small party formed after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and is one of the few significant Sunni figures standing in the polls. He has repeatedly called for the postponement of the elections for fear of a low Sunni turnout.
But he appears to be assembling a larger coalition - in late November, 17 parties representing Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Christians and secular groups gathered at his home to call for a delay to elections.
Dr Hussein Shahristani, a Shia nuclear scientist, was one of six figures chosen to draw up the electoral list of the United Iraqi Alliance.
Whilst director of research at the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission in 1979, he was imprisoned for possessing a subversive leaflet condemning the repression of Iraqi Shias.
Dr Hussein Shahristani
He fled Iraq in 1991 after being imprisoned for refusing to work in Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme and worked for human rights organisations in Iran and London thereafter.
Last year, he said he would not take the job of prime minister - for which he had been tipped - or any other government post, saying he would rather "serve his country in other ways".
The radical young Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr shot to prominence after the fall of Saddam Hussein when his Mehdi Army emerged as a key element of the uprising against the occupation.
But Mr Sadr himself has swung between fiery resistance and apparent willingness to compromise. More senior Shia clerics, including the venerated Ayatollah Ali Sistani,
have had some success in reining him in.
He is not likely to run for political office himself, but could play an influential role through allies.
With the two main Shia parties at least tacitly co-operating with the US-backed administration, candidates endorsed by Mr Sadr could win the backing of Shias unhappy with the current state of affairs.
Iraq's Kurds represent 15-20% of the population and are expected to vote for one of two Kurdish leaders standing in the election.
One is Massoud Barzani, a Kurdish Sunni, who has led the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since the death of his father, Mullah Mustafa, in 1979.
Mr Barzani has worked in tandem with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani since 2002, and the two groups form the backbone of the Kurdistan Alliance List.
Mr Talabani has been a champion of Kurdish nationalism since the 1960s, when he was a member of the KDP. Mr Talabani split from the KDP to help form the PUK in 1975.
- UNITED IRAQI ALLIANCE
The United Iraqi Alliance is said to have the backing of Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The list is dominated by Shia Muslims, but also includes Christians, Turkomans, Sunnis and Kurds. It does not include the followers of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The 228-candidate list contains over 20 groups, movements and political parties, including:
The Islamic Daawa party is one of the two biggest Shia parties in Iraq. It was based in Iran during the Saddam era. It is certain to play a major role in the new government.
Party spokesman Ibrahim Jaafari is one of Iraq's two vice-presidents and could well emerge as prime minister.
The moderate party is the oldest of the country's Shia movements, with roots going back to the 1950s.
It has suffered some fragmentation since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and may have lost support because of its co-operation with the occupying forces in Iraq.
The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, is an influential Shia party that was based in Iran for much of the time Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq.
Its leader, Abdel Aziz Hakim, is the brother of a top Shia cleric who was killed in a massive car bombing in August 2003. Abdel Aziz was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and he or a deputy will almost certainly be a major player following elections.
Sciri had its own militia, the 10,000-strong Badr Brigade, until late 2003 when private militias were banned. The body has since been renamed the Badr Organisation and has worked alongside US and UK troops in Iraq.
Sciri's Iranian backing has fallen off in the face of its willingness to work with the US-backed administration in Iraq.
Central Grouping Party
Islamic Fayli Grouping in Iraq
Al-Fadilah Islamic Party
First Democratic National Party
Islamic Fayli Grouping in Iraq
Iraq's Future Grouping
Hezbollah Movement in Iraq
Justice and Equality Grouping
Iraqi National Congress
Islamic al-Dawah Party-Iraq Organisation
Islamic Master of the Martyrs Movement
Islamic Task Organisation
Islamic Union for Iraqi Turkomans
The list is also said to represent the Yazidi religious minority.
- IRAQI LIST
The Iraqi List is headed by Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party, the Iraqi National Accord Movement.
The list is a coalition between a number of political groups, including:
Council of Iraq's Notables
Iraqi Democrats Movement
Democratic National Awakening Party
Loyalty to Iraq Grouping
Iraqi Independents Association
The list also includes former governing council member, Dr Raja Habib al-Khuzali.
KURDISH PARTIES (Kurdistan Alliance List)
Iraq's Kurds have enjoyed autonomy in the north since the first US war against Saddam Hussein in 1991.
Their two leading political parties, who were opponents for more than a decade, have agreed to stand together in the January polls. They support a united Iraq rather than an independent Kurdistan.
Massoud Barzani has led the KDP for decades
- The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been a dominant force in Iraqi Kurdish politics for more than half a century.
Massoud Barzani has led the KDP since 1979, through decades of conflict with the Iraqi government in Baghdad and with local rivals.
The KDP commands tens of thousands of armed militia fighters, known as peshmerga, and controls a large area of north-western Iraq.
Mr Barzani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and a lieutenant of his is now vice-president of Iraq. He or a chosen deputy should capture a significant role following elections.
- The newer Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was founded in 1975 and describes itself as a modern social-democratic party.
Under the command of the veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, the PUK has created militia forces and a party organisation to rival the traditionally dominant KDP.
PUK leader Jalal Talabani (left) sat on the Governing Council
The party's literature says the PUK was founded in order to "rebuild and redirect Kurdish society along modern and democratic lines".
Mr Talabani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and is likely to play a key role in the country after elections.
Nine other parties will be represented in the Kurdistan Alliance List, reflecting the ethnic mix of the Kurdish Autonomous Area:
Assyrian National Party
Chaldean Democratic Union Party
Democratic House of the Two Rivers Party
Democratic National Union of Kurdistan
Kurdistan Communist Party
Kurdistan Democratic Socialist Party
Kurdish Islamic Union
Kurdistan Movement of the Peasants and Oppressed
Kurdistan Toilers Party (Zahmatkeshan)
- The People's Union contains the Iraqi Communist Party, once one of the strongest communist movements in the Arab world, and an independent candidate, Hikmat Dawud Hakim.
Communist Party leader Hamid Majid Musa said the list contained "257 cultural, social and democratic figures, in addition to candidates representing various sects and nationalities".
One of those on the People's Union list is Culture Minister Mufid Muhammad Jawad al-Jazairi, who represents the communists in the interim government.
The Communist Party was the subject of harsh repression under the Saddam Hussein regime, but re-emerged immediately after his fall.
The party - which has existed since 1934 and helped to topple the British-backed monarchy in 1958 - traditionally draws support from poor southern Shias.
- Arab Democratic Front, 50 candidates, led by Fahran Hawwas al-Sudayd.
The aim of the Arab Democratic Front is to defend the "Arab character of Iraq with respect to the will and rights of the coexisting sects in it". It excludes any person who worked in the dissolved Iraqi Governing Council or its institutions.
- Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Movement has 75 candidates, led by al-Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein.
The Iraqi Constitution Monarchy Movement is "not a political party," according to al-Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, "rather, it is a comprehensive, mass orientation". The Constitutional Monarchy Movement has called for a restoration of the Iraqi monarchy which was overthrown in 1958.
PARTIES BOYCOTTING THE ELECTIONS
- The Association of Muslim Scholars is a Sunni religious body that has called for a boycott of the elections.
It has taken a leading role in representing Sunni Iraqis in the absence of any organised Sunni political parties. The lack of such parties is in part because of the banning of former Baath Party officials from the elections.
Shia religious leaders and US officials are trying to persuade the association to drop its boycott call.
- Iraq's main Sunni political movement, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has also withdrawn from the elections because of the country's poor security situation.
Other parties which said they will boycott the elections include:
National Front for the Unity of Iraq
Shaykh Muhammad Jawwad al-Khalisi (Secretary-General of the INCC)
Dr Wamid Jamal Nazmi (Spokesman)
Arab Nationalist Trend Movement
Imam al-Khalisi University
Democratic Reform Party
United National Front
Iraqi Turkoman Front
Iraqi Christian Democratic Party
Islamic Bloc in Iraq
Office of Ayatollah Ahmad al-Husayni al-Baghdadi
Office of Ayatollah Qasim al-Tai
Union of Iraqi Jurists
Higher Committee for Human Rights
Iraqi Women's Association