Cyprus Table of Contents

Political Institutions

In 1990 the Republic of Cyprus operated under the terms of the 1960 constitution as amended in 1964. It consisted of three independent branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The republic's president, George Vassiliou, was head of state and presided over a council of eleven ministers.

Presidential authority remained as outlined in the constitution. Cabinet portfolios included agriculture and natural resources, commerce and industry, communications and works, defense, education, finance, foreign affairs, health, interior, justice, labor and social insurance. Policy making was in the hands of administrative directors who were appointed civil servants with lifelong tenure. In an effort to make government more of a meritocracy, Vassiliou reassigned a number of ministerial directors to other positions, but encountered resistance from the parties when he tried to replace some of these directors.

The legislative body, the House of Representatives, consisted of fifty-six Greek Cypriot members, with twenty-four seats held for Turkish Cypriots, who had not recognized or participated in the republic's legislative life since the constitutional amendments of 1964. Originally a chamber of fifty, with thirty-five Greek Cypriots and fifteen Turkish Cypriots, the House of Representatives was enlarged in 1985.

The Republic's judicial branch largely followed the original structure outlined at independence. The 1964 amalgamation of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the High Court of Justice into the Supreme Court, combining the functions of the two former courts and eliminating the neutral judge, also led to the establishment of the Supreme Council of Judicature. Assigned the judicatory functions of the former high court, it was composed of the attorney general of the republic, the president and two judges of the Supreme Court, the senior president of a district court, a senior district judge, and a practicing advocate elected every six months by a general meeting of the Cyprus Bar Association.

As a result of the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriot public servants from the government, the Public Service Commission could not function as provided for in the constitution. Therefore, the Public Service Law of 1967 established a new commission to exercise the same functions. Its five members were appointed by the president. President Vassiliou's effort to replace the incumbents with members of his choice was thwarted when the parliament would not provide funding to complete the contracts of the replaced members.

At the district level, a district officer coordinated village and government activities and had the right to inspect local village councils. The mayors and councils for municipalities were appointed.

At the village level, there had been since Ottoman times councils, each composed of a village head (mukhtar) and elders (aza; pl., azades). Large villages that prior to 1974 had sizable mixed populations had separate councils, one for each community. Under the Ottoman empire, the village head and elders were elected by the villagers. In the British period and after independence, the village heads were appointed by the government and then chose the elders. New legislation in 1979 provided that village and town government officials should be elected rather than appointed, and elections for village councils and their presidents have occurred every five years beginning in 1979. The cycle for municipal elections was different: elections were held every five years, most recently in 1986. These election results generally followed the national pattern, in terms of the relative shares won by each of the parties. In some cases, however, parties were able to cooperate at the village level, while competing nationally.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress