Political Parties

Cyprus Table of Contents

In the early postindependence period, Greek Cypriot political party life was centered around a loose coalition of Makarios supporters called the Patriotic Front, plus the communist party, AKEL. The front dissolved in the late 1960s; its major factions broke into discrete parties. The House of Representatives afterwards maintained a fairly stable balance among four parties that ranged from a communist party to one that was right of center. Each of these parties generally received at least 9 percent of the vote, more than the 5 percent being the minimum required to win seats in the legislature.

Three of the four parties so divided the vote that none ever won a clear majority. The Republic of Cyprus has a modified proportional representation system. There were occasional proposals for a simple proportional system, and the electoral law has been modified five times in the 1980s.

As of 1990 the Democratic Rally (Dimokratikos Synagermos--DISY) was the largest parliamentary party. Created in 1976 and led by Glafkos Clerides, it evolved from the Unified Democratic Party (Eniaion), which was one of the factions that emerged from the Democratic Front in the 1970 parliamentary elections. DISY's platform focused on free enterprise economic policies and a practical solution to the intercommunal problem. It was the most explicitly pro-Western and pro-NATO of Cyprus's parties, and drew its support from middle-class professionals, businessmen, and white-collar employees. Its shares of parliamentary election votes were 24.1 percent in 1976 (but no seats because of the electoral law), 31.9 percent in 1981 (twelve seats) and, 33.6 percent in 1985 (nineteen seats).

The Democratic Party (Dimokratiko Komma--DIKO), formed in 1976, was seen as the closest to President Makarios and was headed by his successor, Spyros Kyprianou. The party platform in its first electoral campaign emphasized a nonaligned foreign policy and a long-term struggle over Turkish occupation in the north. Over the years, this party formed uneasy alliances with the two more leftist parties, the communists and socialists. The Democratic Party won twenty-one seats in 1976, eight seats in 1981 (19.5 percent), and sixteen seats in 1985 (27.7 percent). In June 1990, Kyprianou was reelected party leader.

The socialist party, the United Democratic Union of Cyprus (Enie Dimokratiki Enosis Kyprou--EDEK), generally called the Socialist Party--EDEK (Socialistiko Komma), was formed in 1969 by Makarios's personal physician, Vassos Lyssarides. The party advocated socialized medicine and nationalization of banks and foreign-owned mines. It was anti-NATO and pro-Arab, and favored a nonaligned foreign policy, although those positions seemed to have softened in the late 1980s. The party supported enosis with a democratic Greece, opposed continued British sovereignty rights on the island, but differed from the communists in keeping its distance from the Soviet Union. Its appeal was strongest among noncommunist leftists, intellectuals, and white-collar workers. Its electoral strength was the weakest of the four parties. In 1976 EDEK won four seats, three in 1981 (8.2 percent), and six in 1985 (11.1 percent).

The communist movement has been a major force on the island since the 1920s, often vying with the Church of Cyprus for the role of dominant political player. The first communist party was formed in 1924 in Limassol, was banned in 1931, and reappeared in 1941 with the creation of the Progressive Party of the Working People (Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou--AKEL). Banned in the preindependence emergency from 1955 to 1959, AKEL has been in every parliament since 1960. AKEL won nine seats in 1976, twelve in 1981 (32.8 percent) and, fifteen in the enlarged chamber in 1985, which represented a drop to 27.4 percent.

Reflecting the serious crisis in the communist movement since the collapse of East European regimes in late 1989, AKEL held internal conferences in early 1990, but resisted reform proposals. As a consequence, AKEL dissidents formed a new leftist grouping called the Democratic Socialist Renewal Movement (Anorthotiko Dimokratiko Sosialistiko Kinima--ADISOK) in May 1990. The reformers included five members of parliament elected in 1985 as AKEL leaders. ADISOK selected House Deputy Pavlos Dhinglis as chairman and criticized AKEL for undemocratic behavior and an anachronistic mentality. It petitioned President Vassiliou for representation on the National Council, a forum in which all political groups met to discuss political issues.

The parties had held fairly constant positions on key policy issues since the second half of the 1970s. AKEL and DISY, while at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, were regarded as most flexible and forthcoming on settlement matters. EDEK and DIKO took a harder line, pushing for a more punitive approach to Turkey. On social and economic policy, the parties' ideological predilections prevailed: EDEK and AKEL advocated greater government support for workers and free public health services; DISY favored free enterprise. Some Cypriot analysts believe that DISY and DIKO have an overlapping constituency and could merge into a single centrist party if DIKO were to drop its far-right support, estimated at 5 percent of its strength.

More about the Government and Politics of Cyprus.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress