Azerbaijan votes for new parliament

Party worker hands out election material in Baku Some candidates were disqualified for no reason, the OSCE said

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Voting has ended in Azerbaijan's general election, with the ruling party expected to retain power easily and the opposition alleging foul play.

Opposition leaders said many of candidates were prevented from registering and the results had been pre-determined.

They said the poll would consolidate power in the hands of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

Observers said election officials had been "overly restrictive".

But Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission defended the voting process, saying it had taken extra measures to ensure the election was fair.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) sent more than 400 monitors to the elections.

High oil revenues

In November 2005 - soon after the colour revolutions swept new pro-Western governments to power in Georgia and Ukraine - Azerbaijan's opposition mounted a serious campaign to topple the country's ruling elite and its party, the Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

They took to the streets to contest elections which had failed to meet international standards.

But after five years of high oil revenues and economic growth, international observers expected the most predictable election the country has ever seen, the BBC's Tom Esslemont reports.

An exit poll suggested that the ruling party had won enough seats to form a majority in parliament on its own, AFP news agency reports.

OSCE monitors said they had received credible reports of voter intimidation; opposition candidates, they said, had in some cases been disqualified for no reason.

What is more, our correspondent adds, there was a lacklustre pre-election campaign on the streets and in the media, making for a polling day expected to be clouded by voter apathy.

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