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Europe

Hardliners win Turkish Cypriot election

Turkish Cypriot hardliners secure resounding election victory in northern Cyprus, raising concern about about the future of peace talks with Greek Cypriots and Turkey's EU membership ambitions.

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A strong showing by nationalists could complicate fragile reunification talks

The right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) had around 44 percent of the vote, according to provisional results released by the Turkish Cypriot administration on Sunday, April 19.

The UBP advocates an outright two-state settlement on Cyprus, at odds with the federal model now being discussed by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias.

Talat's allies, the center-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP), were in second place with just over 29 percent of the vote.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognized by Ankara.

About 160,000 people were eligible to vote in Sunday's election. Election officials estimated turnout at 81.3 percent.

The Turkish press said that up to 100,000 voters are settlers from the Turkish mainland with TRNC papers.

A setback for reunification?

In the run-up to the vote, campaigning focused on the economy and reunification talks, with voters growing skeptical of President Talat's policy of reconciliation with Greek Cypriots.

Talat will remain the chief negotiator for the Turkish Cypriots in the talks with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, but the strong showing by nationalists is likely to weaken his bargaining position.

Wahlen in Zypern

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and seized the northern territory

The aim of the current talks is to reunite the island as a bizonal federation. The UBP, however, says it wants a rethink of the process.

"We will continue to support negotiations," said UBP leader Dervis Eroglu. "No one should say we are against them. We will put forward our views and discuss them within the framework of Turkey's foreign policy on Cyprus."

In an earlier interview with Turkey's Zaman newspaper, Eroglu was quoted as saying: "Everything will be easier if it is universally accepted that we (Turkish Cypriots) are a nation and that we have a state."

The last attempt at a negotiated solution to the Cypriot problem collapsed five years ago when Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of a UN settlement plan which was then rejected by Greek Cypriot voters.

A United Nations buffer zone currently separates the two communities.