|Cyprus Table of Contents
At independence, Cyprus's constitution called for a government divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, headed by a president, with strong guarantees for the Turkish Cypriot community. The constitution arranged for a Greek Cypriot president and Turkish Cypriot vice president, elected by their respective communities for five-year terms of office. Members of the island's other minorities--Armenians, Maronites, and Roman Catholics--were given the option of joining one of the communities for voting purposes. All chose to be identified as Greek, although some have continued to live in the Turkish zone since the 1974 division of the island. Greek and Turkish were designated as official languages, and the two communities were given the right to celebrate, respectively, Greek and Turkish national holidays.
The constitution further provided that executive power in all but communal matters be vested in the president and vice president. The two executives had the right of veto, separately or jointly, over certain laws or decisions of both the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives, the legislative body. The constitution spelled out in detail their powers and duties.
The Council of Ministers was to be composed of seven Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots, with the former appointed by the president and the latter by the vice president. Decisions of the council were to be taken by absolute majority. Of three key portfolios--defense, finance, and foreign affairs--one was to be held by a Turkish Cypriot.
The unicameral House of Representatives was designed to legislate for the republic in all matters except those expressly reserved to separate communal chambers. The constitution provided that thirty-five of its members be Greek Cypriots and fifteen Turkish Cypriots. (Representation in proportion to communal strength would have resulted in a forty-to-ten ratio.) Members, elected from separate communal rolls, were to serve for terms of five years. The House of Representatives's president was to be a Greek Cypriot and its vice president, a Turkish Cypriot.
Voting in the House of Representatives was to be by majority, except that separate majorities in the two communities were required for imposition of taxes or duties, modification of the electoral law, or laws relating to the separate municipalities in the five main towns. The establishment of these municipalities became one of the most controversial intercommunal issues. While the constitution called for their establishment, implementing legislation was never passed, because the Greeks were convinced that such laws could lead to partition. Turkish Cypriots have long cited this issue as evidence of the Greek Cypriots' intention to undermine the Turkish Cypriots' separate communal identity.
The constitution also called for the creation of two communal chambers, composed of representatives elected by each community. These chambers were empowered to deal with religious, educational, and cultural matters, questions of personal status, and the supervision of cooperatives and credit societies. To supplement an annual provision to the chambers from the government budget, the constitution enabled the communal chambers to impose taxes and fees of their own to support their activities.
The judicial system broadly outlined in the Zurich-London accords and stipulated in detail in the constitution included the Supreme Constitutional Court, the High Court of Justice, district and assize courts, and communal courts. At the summit was the Supreme Constitutional Court, composed of three judges: a Greek Cypriot, a Turkish Cypriot, and a contracted judge from a neutral country who would serve as president of the court. The president, who was entitled to two votes, would serve for six years, while the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot judges would serve until age sixty-eight. The court was to have final jurisdiction on matters of constitutional interpretation and adjudication of disputes centering on alleged discrimination in law against either of the two communities.
This bicommunal structure was duplicated in the High Court of Justice, which exercised appellate jurisdiction over lower courts in civil and criminal matters. The lower courts were assize courts, with criminal jurisdiction, and district courts, with civil jurisdiction except in questions of personal status and religious matters. Disputes between plaintiffs and the defendants belonging to the same community were to be tried by tribunals composed of judges belonging to the appropriate community. Disputes between members of different communities were to tried by mixed tribunals whose compositions were to be determined by the High Court of Justice.
Civil disputes relating to questions of personal status and religious matters were to be tried in communal courts. These courts were rigidly limited in jurisdiction and could not impose restraint, detention, or imprisonment.
The constitution set forth other safeguards for the Turkish Cypriot minority in sections dealing with the civil service and the armed forces of the republic. According to the 1960 census, Greek Cypriots composed 77 percent of the population, Turkish Cypriots 18.3 percent, and other minorities the remainder. The constitution required that the two groups be represented in the civil service at a ratio of 70 to 30 percent. In addition, the republic was to have an army of 2,000 members, 60 percent Greek Cypriot and 40 percent Turkish Cypriot. After an initial period, a 2,000-member security force consisting of police and gendarmerie was to be 70 percent Greek Cypriot and 30 percent Turkish Cypriot.
The organizational structure and qualifications of the civil service were laid down on the model of the British civil service, with provisions for tenure, career status, and promotion through a grade-level system. The ten-member Public Service Commission determined the rules of conduct and qualifications for the various positions.
More about the Government and Politics of Cyprus.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress