Bulent Ecevit, the man regarded as having the most stature for the chore of breaking the deadlock in the Cyprus crisis and rebuilding Turkey's links with the West, emerged today as the prospective premier of Turkey.
Settlement of the conflict over the island is regarded as the key to breaking a logjam of issues that have caused strained relations between Turkey and the United States and constant conflict between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.
Ecevit's moderately leftist Republican People's Party won a near majority in elections yesterday, possibly ending a four-year period of patchwork coalitions.
With most of the votes tallied today, the Republicans had captured 218 sdats in the 450-member National Assembly, and centrists and independents are expected to give Ecevit enough support to form a government - the first leftist administration in Turkey's history.
The conservative Justice Party of Outgoing Premier Suleiman Demirel won 186 seats.
"We will form a government," Ecevit told a cheering crowd of his supporters outside his party's headquarters this afternoon.
Western diplomats here maintain that because Ecevit, 51, is best known as the man who ordered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, during a brief terms as premier in 1974, it would be easier for him to convince Turkish public opinion that it is time to give some of it back.
Turkish troops have occupied 38 per cent of the predominantly Greek island for the past three years, since Ecevit responded to an Athens-supported attempt to unite Cyprus and Greece. Settlement of the dispute could help solve a series of issues touched off by the invasion.
These include resumption of U.S. military aid to Turkey - severed by the U.S. Congress when Turkey invaded Cyprus - and reopening of American military bases in Turkey, closed by Andara in retaliation against the Congressional arms cutoff.
Settlement of the Cyprus conflict could also pave the way to Greece's full participation in NATO, from which it partially withdraw after the Cyprus invasion.
Severance of U.S. military aid has reduced the effectiveness of the Turkish armed forces, the West's southern bulwark against the Soviet Union, and has grounded about 50 per cent of Turkish military aircraft earmarked to NATO for lack of spare parts.
The closure of U.S. military installations in Turkey, including six intelligence gathering stations, has caused a loss of data on military movements in the Soviet Union.
President Carter has told Turkey he will not press Congress to ratify a new $1 billion military aid package unless there is movement toward a settlement on Cyprus. Peace talks were resumed between the island's Greek and Turkish communities in April but have been stalled by the Turkish election.
In addition to Cyprus, another key dispute between Greece and Turkey is oil drilling rights in the Aegean Sea. Ecevit, unlike Demirel, has proposed that the two countries pool their economic and technical resources in joint exploitation of the Aegean's suspected seabed riches.
If Ecevit is able to form a government Carter can be expected to put pressure on him to make the first move in disentangling snarled Western ties in the eastern Mediterranean. Despite his leftist leanings, Ecevit has repeatedly made it clear he would keep Turkey in NATO. He also says he wants better relations with the Greeks.
Despite these foreign concerns, aides indicated today that Ecevit's first priorities would be domestic - restoration of law and order, a key promise of his campaign, and curbing the country's 20 per cent plus inflation. More than 200 persons have died in political violence in Turkey in the past two years, and there were several assassination attempts on Ecevit during the campaign.
Ecevit's Republican Party even outpolled the Justic Party in ultra-rightist Konya, home of the Whirling Dervish Moslem mystic sect, and invaded Demirel's home province of Isparta to grab a Parliaent seat for the first time for the left.
In Istanbul, where Ecevit outpolled Demirel more than 2-to-1, people danced in the streets shouting "Basbakan (premier) Ecevit."
Ecevit, a dark-skinned, wiry man with a hooked nose and heavy black moustache, is called "Karaogian" by his supporter's after a 12th-century "Turkish Robin Hood" who robbed the rich and gave to the poor.
Ironcially, the neo-facsist National Action Party, which has been blamed by Amnesty International for causing most of the violence, increased its number of seats in Sunday's vote from three to 13.
One person was killed and six wounded in political clashes today, bringing the total deaths to 15 to injured to 223 in the election period - the bloodiest ever in Turkey.