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I'm not sure if there's a case like this, but imagine someone asked this question:

How to turn our current earth into an oceanic planet?

Someone searched and there's a question with essentially the same question

How to flood our modern earth like Noah's flood?

But this question has absolutely no answer. Should we still close the new question as a duplicate of the old question?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure closing question A as duplicate of question B requires that question B has at least one upvoted answer. (Yes, this is an annoyance at times.) A diamond moderator can close the question as a duplicate anyway, but at least for me, it'd have to be really obvious that it's a duplicate for me to close it unilaterally. Maybe if a few different users pointed out the same question as "this is a duplicate of B"... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 3, 2017 at 9:13

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This is not possible for a normal user

You can't. The dialog would tell you that you can't mark the question as a duplicate if the other one doesn't have an answer.

Go on the unanswered tab and select any question. It can even have answers, but if they are in that tab those answers don't have any upvotes (yet).

Copy the link.

Go to the active tab.

Choose any question that is not currently on hold.

Click "Close" and choose "Duplicate".

Enter the link you just copied.

You get a red text that reads:

This question does not have an upvoted or accepted answer

(Important step: close the dialog as this was just a test)

Diamond mods are the only ones who could do this

They probably shouldn't in most cases. I don't see any possible reason except for maybe a new user spamming the exact same question. Maybe because someone commented that they want to close it and the new user thought "Well, let's try again". But that's about it and I think the system would prevent them from asking the exact same question again. If they just change a word or two the system might not detect it and the mod should close as a duplicate, but normal users can't do that. Though the normal process would probably be to merge the questions as @Michael pointed out in the comments.

I don't really see a situation where this mod power is useful. Either there are answers on the other question and it would be useful to close as a duplicate, which would allow normal users to do this, or it's the exact same question to the letter, which would necessitate a merge. But theoretically mods could potentially do this.

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  • $\begingroup$ If it's the exact same question, perhaps down to a word or two being changed, then the questions should be merged, not closed as duplicates. Merging questions actually does just what it says on the tin: takes two previously separate questions, including any answers that have been posted, and literally moves all answers on one to the other. Only mods can do that. I'm not sure how merging deals with comments, actually, but given that comments are supposed to be ephemeral "post-it notes" anyway, I likely wouldn't concern myself overly with trying to preserve comments in such a situation. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 3, 2017 at 10:09
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As soon as one of them has valid, upvoted answer, we should close other one

There is no requirement that new one should be closed. Duplicates should be, and if new one is better, and attracts answers of better quality, then close old one, simple.

Exception: close question if it's repeated by the same user

Don't know if it is possible for regular users (at some point in time it was). It used to be possible for diamond moderators. And repeating poor quality questions should be discouraged. Flagging for moderator's attention should do the job.

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