Azerbaijan voters choose new parliament in ex-Soviet nation

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A man casts his ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Snap parliamentary elections are held in Azerbaijan after President Ilham Aliyev dissolved parliament in December. Many opposition parties say they didn't have time to prepare for the campaign and have decided to boycott the elections. (AP Photo/Aziz Karimov)

MOSCOW – Voters in Azerbaijan were choosing a new parliament Sunday in an early election after a short and low-key campaign.

President Ilham Aliev, in power since 2003, called the election in early December after the parliament appealed to be dissolved in order to elect a new body that could work more closely with the president on reforms in the oil-rich country.

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.

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

The official campaigning period began just three weeks ago in the former Soviet republic of 10 million people on the Caspian Sea.