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Voters Go To Polls In Nagorno-Karabakh

19 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Voters went to parliamentary polls today in the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

Amid strong opposition from Azerbaijani authorities, seven parties and 185 candidates are vying for places in Nagorno-Karabakh's fourth parliament, with two-thirds of the parliament's 33 seats to be elected directly and one-third under a proportional system.

Voting was brisk, with lines forming outside polling stations and officials anticipating a turnout above 60 percent.

Azerbaijan, which claims the territory, said any vote in the region will remain illegal until hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis banished from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions were allowed to return.

Nagorno-Karabakh was the scene of a conflict in 1993-94 between Armenia and Azerbaijan that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.

The parliament is elected for a five-year term.