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Azerbaijan's Breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh Holds 'Illegal' Referendum


Turnout in the February 20 vote was 76 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. 

The separatists controlling Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region have strengthened their executive leader's powers in a referendum that international observers warned was illegal.

The separatist region's de facto Central Election Commission said on February 21 that 87.6 percent of voters supported changing its form of governance from semipresidential to fully presidential.

Nagorno-Karabakh will have no prime minister, and the de facto president will appoint government ministers.

Other amendments include the change of the region's name from the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to the Republic of Artsakh, but the two names will be treated as synonymous.

Turnout in the February 20 vote was 76 percent, the commission said.

Armenia-backed separatists seized control of mainly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people. Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict have brought little progress.

Baku and a mediating group from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which consists of U.S., Russian, and French diplomats, have denounced the referendum as illegal.

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