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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February, 2005, 03:05 GMT
Turkish Cypriot PM wins election
Mehmet Ali Talat and his wife Oya make victory signs after casting their vote
Talat said he would work for the reunification of Cyprus
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat has won northern Cyprus' parliamentary elections.

His Republican Turkish Party polled 44%, against 32% for his main rival, Dervis Eroglu's National Unity Party.

The RTP gained seven extra deputies, but with only half of the 50 seats in parliament, Mr Talat will need a coalition partner.

Mr Talat pledged to work for the reunification of Cyprus and closer ties with Europe.

The European Commission welcomed the win as showing desire for integration.

Mr Talat backed a UN reunification plan for Cyprus, which was opposed by Mr Eroglu and by Greek Cypriot voters.

This is a success for Turkish Cypriots, for those who want a peace
Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat

Most Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan in a referendum on the divided island last April.

"We will start work to form a new government tomorrow," Mr Talat said, as his win became apparent.

"This is a success for Turkish Cypriots, for those who want a peace."

Mr Eroglu congratulated Mr Talat, calling the election "a good example of democracy".

Sunday's results "indicate a clear desire of the Turkish Cypriot community to continue preparations for their full integration into the EU", the European Commission said in a statement.

Turnout was 74%

Alliances

"The results also show that the Turkish Cypriots are committed to the reunification of Cyprus."

Map of Cyprus

Sunday's election was called after Mr Talat's governing coalition collapsed last October when it could no longer maintain a parliamentary majority.

Mr Talat has not yet said whether his RTP will renew its coalition with the much smaller Democrat Party of Serdar Denktash, which took 14% of the vote.

Before the vote Mr Denktash - the son of veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash - had not ruled out the possibility of forming an alliance with Mr Eroglu, if he won enough seats.

Breakaway state

Few Turkish Cypriots believe these elections will have a significant impact on the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem, the BBC's Tabitha Morgan reports.

Most Turkish Cypriots want to see their island reunited and to join the European Union.

However, only the internationally recognised Greek south of the island was allowed to join the European Union.

In a few weeks, voters will return to the polls to elect a new president.

Cyprus has been split into the Greek-Cypriot controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The breakaway state in the north is only recognised by Turkey, which maintains 40,000 troops there.


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