Political Dynamics

Cyprus Table of Contents

The politics of Cyprus have gradually evolved from the shadow of the dominant figure of Makarios, who embodied the struggle for independence from Britain and enosis with Greece. After independence was achieved without enosis, Makarios's own thinking changed, and Cypriot politics struggled with its internal ghost-- enosis. Makarios became persuaded that true national independence for Cyprus had advantages, and Greek political trends by the mid1960s convinced him that Cyprus had a destiny distinct from that of Greece. The Greek Cypriot population did not let go of the dream of enosis as quickly, and pro-enosis forces eventually turned on Makarios, leading to the 1974 coup.

While the drive for enosis subsided as a mobilizing force, the difficulties of creating a nation out of a bifurcated society took center stage. Makarios failed to draw the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities together, but, helped by his unusual position and special gifts, he created a consensus among Greek Cypriots. Although the authority of the Church of Cyprus diminished with the rise of new secular institutions, Makarios, as its head, Hellenism and, as elected president, had legitimate political authority. Coupled with these advantages were an extraordinary charisma and a mastery of diplomacy that his adversaries saw as deviousness and duplicity. By the time of the 1974 coup, however, it was clear that Makarios's total domination of Cypriot politics was coming to an end. From July to December 1974, Makarios was out of the country, and the government of the truncated republic was run competently by Glafkos Clerides. Makarios and Clerides then competed as heads of rival political groups, with the differences between them focused on the intercommunal process. Makarios reportedly welcomed this competition as a sign of growing Cypriot political maturity.

After Makarios's death in 1977, Kyprianou succeeded to the presidency, and Clerides continued as the principal opposition leader. The two men differed, among other things, over how to deal with the intercommunal talks.

Sharing the stage with Kyprianou were several other major figures, including Archbishop Chrysostomos, who had succeeded Makarios as head of the Church of Cyprus. Although the archbishop traveled the world meeting with overseas Greeks, Chrysostomos's personal political impact was judged by many to be far less significant than that of Makarios or that of the church as a whole.

Kyprianou was in many ways typical of the centrist, noncontroversial political figures who often follow charismatic leaders. He sought to preserve the Makarios legacy and pursue policies that would further Makarios's goals. But Kyprianou did policies that would further Makarios's goals. But Kyraianou did not have the tactical dexterity or diplomatic skill of Makarios, and he became associated with an approach to the settlement process that preserved the status quo, rather than displaying the openness and initiative that characterized Makarios at the end of his life. The Kyprianou presidency, by the late 1980s, was considered weak and passive, unable to break the stalemate in the settlement process and losing respect at home. At the same time, Kyprianou's less authoritative style did allow more competition in Greek Cypriot politics, permitting independents and other party leaders to contest presidential elections with greater prospects for success.

More about the Government and Politics of Cyprus.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress