Iraq's security forces have already voted
Iraqis head for the polls on Thursday 15 December to elect a new parliament, the Council of Representatives, which will sit for four years.
Once elected, the Council will choose a president and two vice-presidents from among its members. They in turn will choose a prime minister and other ministers, also from the council.
The election comes after two and a half years of temporary administrations since the US-led invasion.
There will be 275 seats in the new Council of Representatives, 230 of which are distributed amongst the 18 governorates according to the number of registered voters in each governorate.
Baghdad will return the largest share of deputies - 59; Muthana in the south will return the smallest number - 5.
Within each governorate a political entity is allocated its share of seats in the new parliament in proportion to the number of votes it wins in that governorate.
The remaining 45 mandates are labelled compensatory seats. According to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), they are allocated to political entities which do not win any seats at governorate level but whose share of the overall vote exceeds a "national threshold" to be calculated by the IECI.
Iraq's electoral law stipulates that at least 25% of the members of the new parliament must be women and that one in three candidates on each political entity's list must be female.
More than 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote from a population of approximately 27 million.
Hospital patients, prison inmates and members of the security forces were allowed to vote on Monday - three days before the rest of the country.
On election day, each voter is required to produce an identification document at the designated polling centre.
In the January National Assembly elections there was a 58% turnout. More recently 63% voted in the October referendum on the draft constitution.
Votes will be counted at the polling stations immediately after voting is closed. The results will then be sent to the IECI for tabulation. The Council of Representatives should assume office no later than 31 December 2005.
Iraq's expatriate community of around 3m is also eligible to vote at polling centres in 15 countries from Tuesday until Thursday. Their votes are counted at the national level.
There are extensive security arrangements in place for the poll, with a five-day public holiday coming into effect on Tuesday.
Around 200,000 members of Iraq's security forces will be deployed to protect the poll.
No civilian, not even those with permits, will be allowed to carry a weapon. All curfews will be extended.
Airports and border crossing points will close from Wednesday until Friday or even Saturday. Jordan has already sealed its border with Iraq.
The IECI has accredited more than 70,000 observers for the elections, as well as more than 150,000 agents from the various political entities.
This is far more than the numbers of observers and agents accredited for the January elections and October's referendum.
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