Azerbaijan voters choose new parliament in ex-Soviet nation

MOSCOW (AP) — Voters in Azerbaijan cast ballots for a new parliament Sunday in an early election after a short and low-key campaign.

President Ilham Aliev, who has been in power since 2003, called the election in December after the sitting parliament appealed to be dissolved in order to elect a new legislature that would work more closely with the president on reforms.

Aliev’s New Azerbaijan Party held 65 of the 125 seats in the old parliament, short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution in the oil-rich country, a former Soviet republic with a population of 10 million.

Nineteen political parties fielded candidates, but most of the more than 1,600 people running were self-nominated, according to the election observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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The official campaigning period began three weeks ago. Polling places closed at 7 p.m. (1500 GMT); it was not clear when definitive results would be announced.

International observers have criticized past elections in Azerbaijan over ballot box stuffing, irregular vote-counting procedures and other concerns.

Central election commission chief Mazahir Panahov said no complaints about violations of election regulations had been received by Sunday afternoon.

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