Voters in Somaliland are choosing MPs for the first time since the territory declared independence from Somalia 14 years ago.
The government fears al-Qaeda attacks during the election
All three parties competing put the quest for international recognition at the top of the agenda.
Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted.
Since then, it has established a reputation for peace and stability - in contrast to the rest of Somalia.
But last week, seven people were arrested in Somaliland, accused of being al-Qaeda members intending to destabilise the election.
As polling stations opened, queues formed in the capital, Hargeisa, with early voting going smoothly.
BBC Africa analyst Grant Ferrett says that the economy has flourished and there has been widespread re-building after the destruction of the war, much of it funded by remittances from overseas.
246 candidates - 7 women
All seek recognition of independence
800,000 eligible voters
He says that while foreign governments have been wary of further destabilising Somalia by endorsing the breakaway republic, the failure so far of the latest attempt to create a functioning central government strengthens the case of the authorities in Somaliland.
President Dahir Riyale Kahin says he hopes the poll will "compel the international community to accept our rights to join the world community".
A total of 246 candidates, including seven women, are contesting the 82 seats in the lower house.
Candidates must demonstrate adherence to Islam, be at least 35 years old and in good health. They must be high school graduates with no criminal record.
The constitution limits the number of parties to three.
It also forbids the creation of parties based on region or clan.