Opposition Gets into Rebel Karabakh Parliament

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Opposition parties for the first time won parliamentary seats in the legislature of Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorny Karabakh in a vote denounced as illegitimate by Baku and the West, preliminary results showed on Monday.

Three pro-regime parties won most of the votes in Sunday's parliamentary elections in the separatist region but in a surprise development two opposition parties cleared the five-percent threshold needed to get into the 33-member legislature, officials said.

The opposition parties -- Movement-88 and National Revival -– got 6.93 percent and 5.38 percent of the vote respectively, said the head of the local elections commission, Arbuhi Arzumanyan.

The ruling Free Motherland party led by rebel prime minister Araik Harutyunyan received 47.35 percent of the vote, Arzumanyan told journalists.

"Karabakh's Democratic Party (of the current speaker Ashot Gulian) came second with 19.1 percent," he added. 

The nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party received 18.51 percent of the vote, Arzumanyan said.

The turnout stood at 70.6 percent.

For over two decades the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute over the territory -- which no country recognizes as independent -- has been a major source of tension in the strategic South Caucasus region wedged between Iran, Russia and Turkey.

Azerbaijan, the United States, and the European Union denounced the elections in the rebel region, which has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since it broke free of Baku's control after a fierce war in the early 1990s that killed 30,000 people.

"The so-called 'elections' in Armenian-occupied Karabakh have no legal force, they contradict Azerbaijan's constitution and international law," Azerbaijan's foreign ministry spokesman Hikmat Hajiyev told AFP ahead of the polls.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and U.S. Department of State's acting spokesman, Jeff Rathke, have said Brussels and Washington will not accept the results of the vote.

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