DISY was founded in 1976 by Glafcos Clerides and cadres from his former Unified Party of the Nationalist Front and the Progressive Front, which collapsed following support by some of their officials to the coup against Makarios in summer 1974. The party faced exclusion and systematic denigration from the day of its inception, as pro-Makarios forces formed an alliance against DISY. They accused the party of offering shelter to the perpetrators of the coup and the extreme right. By exploiting the plurality system then in force, they barred its road to the parliament in 1976, despite its 27 per cent share of the vote. With the passage of time, however, DISY emerged as a reliable political force and an alternative to the failing pro-Makarios alliance. DISY’s electoral successes in the parliamentary elections of 1981 and, in particular, of 1985, when it became the largest party, gradually opened the road to full legitimacy.

The party contested parliamentary elections alone or in alliances with minor parties and all presidential elections with its chairman as candidate. Minor parties merged with DISY at different times, such as the Democratic National Party – DEK in 1976 and the New Democratic Front – NEDIPA prior to the February 1988 presidential elections. The Liberal Party merged with DISY in 2003, after successive alliances since 1991. After his defeat in the 1988 presidential elections, Clerides supported the new president Giorgos Vassiliou’s policies on the Cyprus issue, a gesture that was interpreted as proof of conciliatory and moderate political behaviour.

DISY, as a right-wing party, draws support from traditional conservative forces and it is appealing to a broad spectrum of voters. In the party’s founding declaration, democracy and democratic principles were given a prominent place, a response to those attacking the party and its leader for offering shelter to perpetrators of the 1974 coup. In everyday politics, DISY promoted the image of a moderate right-wing and centre-right party. In 1991 it sought rapprochement and electoral cooperation with its major enemy—the pro-Makarios centre party DIKO, claiming that this would unite the entire centre and right-wing front and bar the road to the ‘red banners’ of AKEL.

Along with political moderation, DISY used rainbow colours with its light blue logo in 1991, symbols appealing to forces beyond traditional right-wing voters. It also seized a golden opportunity offered by the impasse facing DIKO after it lost power in 1988, and initiated a policy of rapprochement by supporting DIKO’s vice chairman as president of the parliament in 1991. The formation of a DIKO–DISY alliance in the mayoral elections six months later enabled the party to appeal to a broader base of voters. Despite its failure to secure any guarantees for future cooperation in exchange for its generosity to DIKO, it effectively won the latter’s support in the second round of the 1993 presidential elections. Clerides won the presidency of the Republic by a margin of only 2,000 votes (0.6 per cent) over the incumbent Vassiliou. In order to succeed, DISY and its leader had reversed their policies on the Cyprus issue and boycotted in late 1992 Vassiliou’s efforts for a negotiated solution under the auspices of the United Nations. The policies of Clerides’ coalition cabinet, shared equally between DIKO and DISY, shifted to nationalist choices and rhetoric. The common defence doctrine with Greece and the theory of the ‘dormant volcano’ occupied central stage; failure of the international community to solve the Cyprus issue would cause the volcano to erupt. The purchase of Russian S300 missiles was another example of this approach.

Clerides’ second term, won in 1998 with the support of small parties, and the change in the attitude of EDEK, now preaching an end to enmities of the past, led to the formation of a multiparty government. DISY felt the need to break with nationalist positions and escape from introversion, which was limiting its electoral appeal. He needed to find ways to keep in touch with centre and right-wing voter and to respond to AKEL’s offensive. Its manifesto on ‘Eurodemocracy’ of 1998 and the denial of ideological cleavages were an attempt in these directions. Within this frame of reference, DISY was offering itself a way out of an ideological confusion reigning among its supporters due also to the diversity of the groups that had founded the party in 1976. The claim that the terms ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘centre’ were obsolete, and the new identity, defined on the basis of humanistic values, social liberalism and realism, between neo-liberalism and the domination of the state, supported the party’s argument that it was ‘covering a very broad political spectrum’

Under the new orientation, DISY defined itself as a catch-all party, appealing to every citizen. In the 2001 elections, it focused on its pro-European character, in opposition to AKEL’s scepticism, and sought the people’s vote as a means to reinforce its European perspective. This aimed at shifting attention from AKEL’s strong points—opposition to nationalism and focus on internal issues and problems. DISY’s main arguments indicated the use of Europe more as a symbolical resource than a set of values.

DISY did not manage to stay in power. It went into opposition and only months later, at its tenth congress (May 2003), defined its new concept, that of a ‘modern dynamic opposition’ that would present an alternative proposal for government. In the case of the UN/Annan plan and the referendum in April 2004, the leadership of the conservative party reversed traditional roles by supporting the Plan, against what appeared in the polls to be the position of two-thirds of its voters. This choice led to splits, exclusion and departures of some officials who formed new schemes. Despite the problems, the party attempted to explain its positions and achieved relatively good results in the European elections in June 2004 and in the parliamentary elections of May 2006.

DISY continued however to be a mosaic of political forces and after 2006 has also suffered significant losses of influence, as other parties as well, when abstention rates soared and reached 33.2% in 2016.

In 2013, DISY elected its chairman Nicos Anastasiades to the presidency of the Republic, with the support of the Democratic Party – DIKO, which participated in the government. The first act of the new government was to accept a plan imposed by the Eurogroup in order to save the economy which led to the closing down of one of the two major banks, a haircut on deposits and other harsh measures.

The government managed to stabilise the economy and introduce some reforms of a limited scope.

In 2018, Nicos Anastasiades was re-elected to the presidency of the Republic.

DISY’s vote share in 2016 was 30.7% against 34.3% in 2011, with abstention rates at 33.2% in 2016 and 21.3% in 2011.