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September 10, 2017 by Chris Christou

Cyprus has a rich, but turbulent history that can be traced to over 8000 years back. Keeping in line with the other Mediterranean islands, Cyprus too has been under numerous different occupations. The most important of the occupants of Cyprus were the Athenians, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Egyptians and the Romans.

It was after the partition of the Roman Empire in the 4th century that Cyprus became a part of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. Cyprus was temporarily under the Arabs between the years 648 and 746 wherein Richard I of England installed Guy of Lusiganan as its ruler during the Third Crusade. Venice then took control in 1489, which lasted only till 1571 when the Ottoman Turks maintained rule in Cyprus for over three centuries. The British then empowered Cyprus in 1878, wherein Cyprus finally achieved independence in August 1960, after a four year struggle with the troops from the UK.

The first president of Cyprus was Archbishop Makarios, the political leader of the liberation movement. He was elected in December 1959 under a new constitution that read that the British still had control over two large tracts of land in Cyprus, which was meant to be for their military purposes. This fell apart in 1974 when Makarios was deposed. In a matter of days, Turkish troops took over the land, headed by Rauf Denktash. Though the Greeks fought for the land, the Turkish army managed to keep control on that part of the island. And to date, the island has remained divided with UN peacekeeping forces maintaining peace between the two sides.

Though the Turkish part of the island proclaimed their part of the land in November 1983, recognition to the island’s government laid only in the Greek-Cypriot administration of Nicosia. President Glafkos Clerides led this government for a decade till February 2003 when he was deposed during the recent presidential elections by Tassos Papadopoulos. Tassos was a candidate of the Communist party, the single largest force of Greek-Cypriot politics.

The Greek-Cypriot government generally aims at normalizing relations with the Turkish inhabited region of the island, and in reunifying the island. However, many attempts have ended in failure, with disagreement in the balance and concentration of power in the government and the return of property that the Turkish settlers have occupied. The Turkish segment of Cyprus has been ruled by Rauf Denktash since the past 30 years; and has won presidential elections with comfortable majorities.

With the help of nine others, President Papadopoulos oversaw the entry of the Republic of Cyprus in the European Union on May 2004. This was done, despite there being no political settlement between the two parts of the island. Even the most recent plan of the UN has been rejected on both sides. But with relaxed trade and travel restrictions and other limited measures have led to a sort of thaw between these two governments.

When looking at the government of Cyprus, the 1960 constitution which provides for sharing of power between the Turkish and Greek communities remains in force. Here, it is the population that determines the sharing of power between the two communities. However, practically, there is a duplication of state organs here in two zones. The president of Cyprus is the executive power who is elected through universal adult suffrage once in five years. He has a council of members who help him. And in the Turkish segment of Cyprus, the legislative assembly comprises of 50 members who are elected by proportional representation for five years. The executive president here is also elected for a term of five years.