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Ruling Party Leads In Karabakh Vote

20 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Preliminary results in yesterday's parliamentary elections in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh show the ruling party has a strong lead.

Election officials in the unrecognized enclave say the ruling party and its allies have won 22 seats in the 33 seat parliament.

Independent candidates have won eight seats, and the opposition bloc won three.

The opposition says the vote was unfair, and accuses authorities of manipulating the ballot.

Paul Williams, a representative of the U.S. Public International Law and Policy Group which monitored the poll, today said that the vote met international democratic standards.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the territory in the early 1990s in which an estimated 25,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis were driven from the region.

Azerbaijan still claims the territory, which is under Armenian control.

While Armenia today welcomed the vote, Azerbaijan says any voting in Nagorno-Karabakh is illegal until Azerbaijanis banished from the region are allowed to return.