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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 01:41 GMT
Turkish Cyprus election stalemate
Opposition supporters at a rally in the Turkish part of Nicosia on Thursday
The opposition wants to push for reunification
Pro-European opposition parties have narrowly won a vote in the unrecognised Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus.

The governing nationalists who oppose a UN plan to unite the island trailed them by about 2% of the total votes.

But the complicated electoral system means the two sides will have the same number of seats in parliament.

At stake is the unification of the island and the chance to join the EU in May with their Greek Cypriot compatriots in the south.

The opposition wants to resume the stalled talks on re-unification to end the Turkish Cypriots' international isolation.

'Psychological warfare'

Polls closed at 1600 GMT. Officials put the turnout at 85%.

THE NEW PARLIAMENT
Republican Turkish Party
(pro-EU)- 19
National Unity Party (nationalist) - 18
Democrat Party (nationalist) - 7
Peace and Democracy Movement (pro-EU) - 6
Opposition leader Mehmet Ali Talat claimed victory but said he would not form a coalition with the nationalists.

Pro-EU and nationalist groups received 25 seats each in the 50-seat assembly, despite Mr Talat's Republican Turkish Party becoming the largest single party.

Outgoing Prime Minister Dervis Eroglu did not openly concede defeat, but said the opposition had been helped by foreign countries waging "psychological warfare" on its behalf.

The position of President Rauf Denktash will not be affected by the vote.

Collusion

But opposition leaders say that they will replace him as negotiator and push for a settlement that could take the north into the EU as part of a reunited Cyprus.

Mr Denktash's supporters, on the other hand, say the UN-backed plan will lead to domination by the south.

They also believe Brussels has colluded with the Greek Cypriot government in imposing international trade embargoes on the unrecognised republic, stifling the Turkish Cypriot economy.

While these elections involve fewer than 150,000 voters the outcome is important for the future of Europe as a whole.

A victory by the governing parties would have meant that only the southern part of Cyprus would have joined the EU next May.

And without a settlement on Cyprus, Turkey's chances of being given a date when it can begin negotiating its own accession to the EU would have started to look very small indeed.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jonny Dymond reports from Cyprus
"The north of the island was split right down the middle"



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