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Nagorno-Karabakh Election Turnout Exceeds Minimum

Voters in separatist Nagorno-Karabakh have voted for a new president in the breakaway republic, located in Azerbaijan. Critics say the vote will only deepen divisions between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan. The enclave's predominantly Armenian people hope Sunday's poll will help them gain international recognition for their self-declared homeland.

The Central Election Commission in Stepanakert, the self-proclaimed capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, says voter turnout exceeded the required 25 percent by midday, validating the election.

Monitors from at least 40 countries, including Russia and the United States, observed voting at more than 250 polling stations across the disputed enclave.

No violence was reported, though there has been strong opposition to the election, namely from Russia, the European Union and Azerbaijan. Critics see the poll as a challenge to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

Arkady Gukasian, the front-runner in the race, said after voting that anyone who is against the election is "against democracy."

Mr. Gukasian is facing off against three other challengers, all of whom are strongly pro-independence. He has said that if he is re-elected, he will use his second five-year term to pursue economic reforms.

The enclave's economy has been in shambles ever since the end of the war over the territory with Azerbaijan which killed about 35,000 people and left one million more homeless.

The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has been under international mediation for years, but has defied resolution. Some say a peaceful settlement may prove even more elusive after Sunday's poll.