With nearly all the results tabulated, Talat told reporters in Nicosia that his party would probably win 25 seats in the 50-seat assembly.

A period of political horse-trading, therefore, looks likely now, as Talat tries to form a new government before the Turkish Cypriot parliament resumes in 10-days time.

"We will most probably need a coalition, but we only need one seat to get one," Ozdil Nami, a deputy in the Republican Turkish party (CTP), told Aljazeera.net.

Meanwhile, the main opposition parties - the National Unity Party (UBP) and Democrat Party (DP) - saw their seats relatively unchanged since the last election in 2003.

The DP is expected to win six seats, the UBP 18. The final seat seems likely to go to Mustafa Akinci's Peace and Democracy Movement (BHP). His party's losses came as pro-settlement voters flocked to the CTP.

DP leader Serdar Denktash said his party were now "the king makers", explaining that they were the most likely coalition partners for the CTP.

Path to peace 

CTP leaders are insistent that the election results send a message to the wider world. "Despite the disappointments," Kemal Cengiz, an administrative assistant for the Girme municipality, said, "the result shows a commitment to follow the same course. Now this will also show the EU and the US and the international community that they have to help us."

"We will most probably need a coalition, but we only need one seat to get one"

Ozdil Nami,
CTP deputy

CTP deputy Nami said, "The result shows that Turkish Cypriots are committed to the path to peace ... and our support for this in the past was not just a convenience."

Others saw in it a clear indication of a deeper political change on the island.

Talat promised to pursue "more decisively and extensively" a policy of pressuring the international community to begin direct trade with Turkish Cypriots and end the unrecognised state's isolation.

But many Turkish Cypriots are less optimistic any substantial change can be brought upon by the election results.

Pressure on Greeks

 

"The Greek Cypriots must now respond to what we are saying," said Nefus Avci, a student from Famagusta," but we fear that nothing much will come from them. They will try to downplay this."

Turkish Cypriots are sceptical
they will feel political changes


Last April, Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of a UN reunification plan, which Greek Cypriots voted against. Since then, there have been no new efforts to restart talks, although both sides have expressed a willingness to do so.

However, the UN has largely dismantled its Cyprus negotiating team, while the EU is also reluctant to become involved in negotiating a solution, as it fears that at present any new settlement plan would similarly be voted down.

 

Results welcomed

 

The European Commission on Sunday welcomed Talat's victory saying the outcome showed a "clear desire" by the region's residents for full integration into the EU.

 

"The commission welcomes the results of the 'parliamentary' elections in the northern part of Cyprus," the EU's executive branch said in a statement.

 

"The results indicate a clear desire of the Turkish Cypriot community to continue preparations for their full integration into the EU," it said.

 

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