ISTANBUL - Right-wing National Unity Party, or UBP, won almost 44 percent of votes in Turkish Cypriot elections on Sunday, according to early results announced by officials. Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat said the outcome would not affect the future of reunification talks. (UPDATED)
"I don’t think that the results of the election will influence the future of negotiations," Talat told reporters as he cast his ballot, adding that he hoped the results of the election could "contribute to efforts aimed at finding a solution to the Cypriot conflict."
Opinion polls ahd predicted major gains by the UBP ahead of the Turkish Cypriot leader Talat's governing CTP.
More than 160,000 Turkish Cypriots casted their ballots to elect 50 new parliamentarians from the 345 candidates from seven political parties and eight independent candidates competing.
The CTP currently holds 25 seats in the 50-member parliament while its coalition partner, the nationalist Liberal Reform Party, controls five, while the UBP has 13 deputies.
A victory by the UBP could limit Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat’s ability to negotiate in reunification talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the island's decades-long division, media reports said.
However, Talat, who heads the ruling Republican Turkish Party, or CTP, will remain the chief negotiator for the Turkish Cypriots in the reunification talks with Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s vote.
Talat insisted peace talks will proceed, regardless of the election outcome, when he met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington on Wednesday.
Relaunched in September after a four-year hiatus, the talks mark the first major push for peace since the failure of a U.N. reunification plan in 2004, which was approved by Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.
Cyprus has been divided since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves.