The birth of the Republic of Cyprus
The constitution of Cyprus is a constitution written and given to us by others and its basis is the separation of powers based on ethnic separation. It was agreed to and signed by the leaders of the 2 communities which the constitution provides for:
- Greeks (G/C)
- Turks (T/C)
It should be noted that there were other minority populations on the island who, given the choice between the aforementioned communities, chose to join the G/C community.
The first article of the constitution states that the Republic of Cyprus is an independent and sovereign republic and that the people of Cyprus is the most important institution having unlimited power in regulating the affairs of the state. The power of this newly formed entity – the Republic of Cyprus- is transferred to the sum of its inhabitants, who have the right to elect a president and a vice president of the Republic.
Apart from being a single body, the people of Cyprus are defined individually and given some fundamental human rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression, fair trial and property rights.
The state is separated into 3 equal and independent branches:
- Legislative (House of Representatives)
- Executive (President and Cabinet)
- Adjudicative (Courts)
The legislative body is the one which is elected to make decisions which become laws of the state with the approval of a simple majority of the representatives.
As we’ve already mentioned, the constitution separates the population in 2 communities. Other than the representatives in the state’s parliament (House of Representatives), eachcommunity elects its own representatives in their respective Communal Chambers (assemblies), which have full jurisdiction in:
- Religious matters
- Matters pertaining to personal status (family, marriage, etc.)
- Other communal matters such as charitable and sports institutions
- Other matters
The House of Representatives consists of 50 representatives, of which 70% are G/C and 30% are T/C. The proportion of representatives of each community is independent of the population statistics data. The representatives are elected through separate votes of the communities in which they belong.
Furthermore, the G/C representatives elect the G/C President of the House of Representatives, whereas the T/C representatives elect the T/C Vice-President of the House.In order to pass, most bills require a simple majority vote of the whole of the representatives, except a few bills which need a supermajority to pass, that is 2/3 of the representatives of each community (amendments to the constitution, electoral laws, and bills on municipalities).
It is noteworthy that according to Article 110, the Communal Chamber of the G/C has no jurisdiction over the regulation and administration of interior affairs and over the property of the Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus. In contrast, the T/C Communal Chamber may exercise jurisdiction over the waqf institution.
It consists of a G/C President and a T/C Vice-President, who are elected separately from their respective communities. The constitution provides for 10 ministries, of which 3 are the basic ones: Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Finance. From the 10 ministers, 7 are G/C and 3 are T/C, whereas 1 of those 3 T/C must hold one of the basic ministries. The G/C and T/C ministers are basically under the President and Vice-President respectively.
The President as well as the Vice-President have a right to a veto on matters pertaining to security, defence and foreign affairs of the state. However, the G/C cannot exercise their veto power on foreign policy with Turkey, nor can the T/C do so on foreign policy with Greece.
The adjudicative body consists of judges who interpret the laws of parliament or the constitution, only within their jurisdictional limits.
According to the constitution 2 courts are created:
- The Supreme Court (SC) which acts as an appellate court, which means that it reviews civil and criminal disputes (appeals) which were decided in the District Courts, and issues final decisions.
- The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) which examines the constitutionality of laws, and so it interprets the constitution. Its interpretation carries the highest constitutional force. It resolves disputes between institutions (such as President/Vice-President vs House of Representatives, President vs G/C Community, Vice-President vs T/C Community) as well as disputes between private parties and the state (such as recourse action and matters of the constitutionality of a law)
- The civil service must employ 70% G/C and 30% T/C irrespective of population statistics and it must do so for all levels of service.
- The armed forces are consist of 60% G/c and 40% T/C.
- The television and radio programmes must transmit programmes of both communities, where the T/C shall transmit at least 75 hours (45%).
- Separate municipalities will operate in the 5 major cities.
Final provisions and the Treaty of Guarantee
- The territory of the Republic is unitary and indivisible. The full or partial unification of Cyprus with another state is prohibited.
- Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom recognise and undertake to safeguard the integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.