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Old 19.06.2005, 15:13   #1
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Default Karabakh holds disputed elections

Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK

Parliamentary elections are being held in the disputed south Caucasus enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which seceded from Azerbaijan in 1991.



Around 106 candidates from seven parties are contesting 33 seats.

While Azerbaijan called the vote illegitimate, the territory's president says he hopes it will boost its bid for international recognition.

Nagorno-Karabakh's independence struggle has claimed up to 30,000 lives and displaced one million people.

'Disputed territory'

Karabakh President Arkadiy Gukasyan promised an honest and transparent vote and warned against any actions which could harm the province's image.

"All attempts at violations, whoever the author, will be denounced and initiators punished with the full severity of the law," he said.

Neighbouring Armenia is the only country to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a mainly ethnic-Armenian population, as an independent state.

Azerbaijan still claims sovereignty over the territory but was beaten back by Armenian forces in the war, which ended with a ceasefire in 1994.

Turkey, one of Azerbaijan's staunchest allies, has also declared Sunday's vote illegitimate.

Two thirds of the parliament's 33 seats are to be elected directly and the remaining 11, under a proportional system.

Results of the poll, which is being monitored by around 100 non-governmental observers, are expected late on Monday or early Tuesday.

For the elections to be declared valid, at least 25% of the 89,000 people eligible to vote must turn out.
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