More than 15 million Iraqis are eligible to vote in Thursday's parliamentary elections - the first such vote since a new constitution was ratified in October.

They are casting ballots to fill the 275 seats in the new Council of Representatives. Although elections for an interim assembly were held in January, this vote will be the first for a parliament that will sit for a four-year term.

Voters will choose from lists of parties and coalitions representing Iraq's many religious, ethnic and political groups. Only a handful of those are expected to be strong contenders.

In this election, each of Iraq's 18 provinces will be a separate voting district, with seats allocated according to population. The provinces will elect 230 legislators, and the remaining 45 seats will be filled according to a party's share of the national vote.

The new parliament will choose the next prime minister, who will then form a cabinet.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.