Speaking to reporters after some 90 percent of ballots were counted, Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the governing Republican Turkish Party pledged to keep up efforts to re-unite the divided island of Cyprus. He also vowed to ensure that the country's break-away Turkish dominated north become officially part of the European Union together with the Greek dominated south that joined the Union in May last year. The Greek Cypriot government is recognized by the international community as the legitimate administration of the island.

The Turkish north will be unable to reap the benefits of European Union membership until the island is re-united, and continues to rely on vast subsidies from the Ankara government.

Mr. Talat's strong showing was seen by observers that a majority of Turkish Cypriots back his pro-peace policies. He failed by a thin margin to secure an absolute majority and will need to strike a deal with one of three other parties that won parliamentary seats in order to form a government.

Cyprus has been partitioned since Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 after Greek Cypriot nationalists sought to annex the island to mainland Greece.

The latest U.N. peace plan to re-unite Cyprus under a loose federation of autonomous states failed when the Greek Cypriots voted against the plan in twin referendums held on the Greek and Turkish sides of Cyprus last year. An overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan. Efforts to revive the U.N. peace process have failed over Greek Cypriot demands for further concessions from Turkey.

Those include calls for Turkey to withdraw its troops from the island, a condition Turkey says it cannot fulfill until lasting peace is achieved on the island, and that Turkey itself becomes a full member of the European Union.