Government and Politics

Cyprus Table of Contents

THE SHAPE, STRUCTURE, and status of Cyprus's government have been sources of bitter controversy for most of the nation's history since independence in 1960, and have become the "national" question for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Politics in both communities, governed separately since 1964 and physically separated since 1974, have been dominated by the lack of consensus, both between and within the two communities, over the very identity of the state and the structure of its government and political institutions.

The original political arrangements outlined in the 1960 constitution were in effect for only three years. By 1963, after proposals by President Archbishop Makarios III (1960-77) to amend the constitution in ways widely viewed as favoring the majority Greek Cypriot population, Turkish Cypriots withdrew from many national institutions and began self-government in the Turkish quarters of the island's towns and cities and in villages in Turkey.

A more significant change occurred after the 1974 Turkish intervention. Following the dislocation and resettlement of large segments of both communities, the current situation emerged: two separate governments--only one of which enjoys international recognition as the legitimate government--functioning in two discrete geographic zones. In February 1975, the provisional Turkish Cypriot administration declared itself the "Turkish Federated State of Cyprus" ("TFSC"), although it stated its intention to move toward a federal solution with the Greek Cypriots and pledged not to seek recognition as an independent state. In October 1983, after continued stalemate of United Nations (UN) efforts toward a settlement, Turkish Cypriots renamed their "state" the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC"). While restating their commitment to working toward a federal solution, Turkish Cypriot authorities launched an international campaign for recognition of their state, arguing that recognition would facilitate a solution by according the island's two political entities equal status. As of the early 1990s, however, only Turkey had recognized the "TRNC."

Greek Cypriots maintained that the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960 continued to exist, with functioning institutions, absent Turkish Cypriot participation. The status of the 1959 treaties that established the republic in 1960 remained in dispute, posing a challenge to the Greek Cypriot claim of legal authority and sovereignty over the whole island (except for the 256 square kilometers that are sovereign British base areas). The Greek Cypriot position on the legal status of the 1959 agreements is not completely clear. The late president Makarios attempted to invalidate the Treaty of Guarantee, and later Greek Cypriot leaders claimed it violated their sovereignty, but on occasion they have tried to invoke it. For example, after the 1983 Turkish Cypriot declaration of statehood, the republic's president tried to persuade the British government to intervene under the terms of that treaty's Article IV.

Since the 1974 crisis and the emergence of the Cyprus question as an international political problem, the Republic of Cyprus has had three presidents. Makarios, the dominant political and religious figure for Greek Cypriots, died of a heart attack in the summer of 1977 at age sixty-three. He was succeeded by Spyros Kyprianou, leader of the ruling Democratic Party, and Makarios's ecclesiastical responsibilities were assumed by Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos. Kyprianou was reelected unopposed in January 1978 and was reelected in contested elections in 1983. In February 1988, Kyprianou was ousted in an upset by newcomer George Vassiliou, a successful businessman with no party affiliation, who campaigned on a promise to bring fresh ideas and energy to the settlement process.

Leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community has remained since 1974 in the hands of Rauf Denktas, elected president of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TFSC") in July 1975 and reelected in 1981. In 1985, under a new constitution in the newly formed "Turkish Federated State of Cyprus" ("TRNC"), Denktas again won at the polls, by a margin of 70.4 percent, and in April 1990 received 67.1 percent of the vote, defeating two opponents.

The search for a settlement through creation of a new federal republic continued in the late 1980s and in 1990. Talks intensified after Vassiliou's election, and the UN-sponsored negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 1988-90 aimed at outlining a framework for establishing a federal republic that would be bicommunal with respect to constitutional issues and bizonal with respect to territorial concerns. Early optimism that Vassiliou would be the catalytic force to bring the talks to a successful conclusion was dampened when talks broke down in early 1990. Despite tentative progress on closing the gap between Greek Cypriot demands for freedom of movement, property, and settlement and the Turkish Cypriot demand for strict bizonality with considerable authority to the two provinces or states, the process was encumbered by deep mistrust between the two sides and a growing conviction that the Turkish Cypriot side was more inclined to work for its separate status than for power sharing in a unitary state with Greek Cypriots.

1960 Constitution
1963 Constitutional Breakdown
1964-74 Situation: Separate Communal Life
The 1974 Crisis and Division of the Island
Milestones in the United Nations Settlement Process
1977 Makarios-Denktas Accords
1979 Kyprianou-Denktas Communiqué
1984 Proximity Talks
1985-86 Draft Framework Exercise
1988-90 Vassiliou-Denktas Meetings
Political Institutions

Political Parties
Political Dynamics
Political Culture in the Vassiliou Era
The Republic of Cyprus
The Foreign Policy of Internationalization
Relations with Greece
Relations with the United States and the Soviet Union
Relations with the Europe
Other Foreign Policy Concerns
The "TRNC"

For more information about the government, see Facts about Cyprus.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress