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Turkey's Ruling Party Set for Election Win - 2004-03-28

Early voter tallies show Turkey's conservative ruling party strengthening its 18-month grip on power with a string of convincing victories in Sunday's local elections.

Unofficial, preliminary results show Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan's Justice and Development party winning overwhelmingly in mayoral races in Istanbul and Ankara.

The ruling party was also expected to make strong showings across most of the country. Analysts say voting preferences shown in early tallies are not likely to change as vote counting continues. Mr. Erdogan, whose party won a commanding victory in 2002, said he planned to telephone top U.S. and European officials to discuss methods for breaking a deadlock in Cyprus talks.

The Turkish leader was later set to fly to Switzerland for talks with Greek and Cypriot leaders on a stalled reunification plan for the divided island.

Analysts predict Sunday's expected elections sweep will also allow Turkish lawmakers to move forward with economic and political reforms necessary for Turkey to gain entry into the European Union.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.