PM's ruling party ahead in Turkish Cypriot poll: partial

The ruling party of the prime minister of northern Cyprus, a statelet recognised only by Turkey, was leading parliamentary elections today but will probably still need to form a coalition, partial results showed.

More than 190,500 people were registered to vote in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), established in the wake of Turkey's 1974 invasion of the island in response to an Athens-backed coup.

The vote comes ahead of presidential polls later this month in the internationally recognised Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus, with peace efforts on hold until both sets of elections are over.

The National Unity Party (UBP) of prime minister Huseyin Ozgurgun led the polls with 36 percent of the vote, ahead of the socialist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) at 21 percent, Turkish Cypriot media reports said, based on a count of 58 percent of ballot boxes.

The vote of the Democrat Party (DP) -- the outgoing junior partner in the ruling coalition -- however collapsed to 7 percent. The People's Party (HP) -- a new party -- polled well on 17 percent.

If confirmed, the results would probably pave the way to a UBP-CTP coalition, which could be useful for president Mustafa Akinci, as the CTP broadly supports peace talks he has led.

But the HP -- which may still play a role in the coalition -- has expressed scepticism over negotiations to reunify the island.

Akinci will want broad backing at home as he seeks to push once more for a federal solution to the Cyprus problem and convince his Greek Cypriot counterparts he means business.

The election in the northern third of Cyprus comes six months after efforts to reunify the island collapsed at a United Nations-hosted peace summit in Switzerland over several sticking points including the withdrawal of Turkey's 45,000 troops.

The election, originally planned for July, was brought forward after tensions in the ruling coalition of the UBP and its junior partner DP, as the opposition pressed for snap polls.

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