The first organized political force on the island was the Communist Party of Cyprus – KKK . Its first nuclei appeared since 1922 and it officially held its founding congress in August 1926. In 1941, leaders of the outlawed (since 1931) KKK and some bourgeois notables founded the Progressive Party of Working People – AKEL. After five years of ‘parallel’ coexistence of the two parties (with the KKK still banned), AKEL becomes officially a successor to the KKK (1946).

In response to AKEL, Themistoklis Dervis, the conservative mayor of Nicosia, founded the Cyprus National Party (KEK), in May 1943. The influence of KEK was largely based on the well-organized peasants movement Panagrotiki Union of Cyprus – PEK, which was founded in 1942.

The founding of AKEL and the competition with the conservative class and the church in the 1940s determined the main features, patterns and development of Cyprus politics until the 2000s. The 1940s established a very strong cleavage dividing the right and the left forces, at not only the political and ideological level, but also in all aspects of daily life, in sports, the services sector, in society and the economy. The cleavage still remains in place to some extent, despite its strong weakening in recent years and the alienation of large parts of the electorate from politics and party life.

Following the Zurich and London agreements (February 1959), the EOKA fighters, who waged the anti-colonial struggle, founded the United Democratic Reconstruction Front – EDMA, in April 1959. Its activity did not last beyond 1959 and it was replaced by the Patriotic Front, which led the campaign for the election of Archbishop Makarios as first President of the Republic of Cyprus, in December 1959. In November 1959, in the run-up to the presidential elections, a precarious right-wing group, the Democratic Union, was founded by conservative politicians Themistoklis Dervis and Ioannis Clerides. It collaborated with AKEL in support of Ioannis Clerides, candidate in the December presidential election opposing Archbishop Makarios.

From 1960 to 1968, AKEL was the only truly organized political force on the island. It coexisted with a loose group of MPs, the Patriotic Front, which represented almost all the forces that had participated in the 1955-1959 anti-colonial struggle, despite their differences.

In May 1968, Takis Evdokas, who had faced Makarios’ candidacy in the presidential elections of the previous February, founded the Democratic National Party – DEK. It represented the supporters of the continuation of the struggle for Enosis, Union with Greece and was the only force of opposition to the government of Makarios.

In February 1969, Glafkos Clerides, President of the House of Representatives announced the founding of the right-wing United Party the Nationalist Front or, simply, the United Party – Eniaion, co-chaired by interior minister Polykarpos Giorkatzis. In a few days, Cyprus had four new parties; Vassos Lyssarides founded the United Democratic Union of the Center – EDEK, Nikos Sampson founded the Progressive Party and Odysseas Ioannides founded the Progressive Front. Prior to the 1970 parliamentary elections, the two latter parties merged into the Progressive Front.

The Turkish invasion had a decisive impact on party politics and much beyond that. Under the weight of the stand adopted by key members of the conservative parties in support of the junta’s coup against Makarios, the Eniaion and Progressive Party collapsed. Their leaders and other persons joined forces under the leadership of Glafkos Clerides, and, in July 1976, they founded the Democratic Rally – DISY. Spyros Kyprianou, former Foreign Affairs minister of Makarios, founded the Democratic Front – DIPA, which was later renamed the Democratic Party – DIKO. The National Democratic Party – DEK cooperated with DISY in 1976 and, after the elections (January 1977), merged with it.

In 1980, new parties were created from splits in the Democratic Party – DIKO and the so-called “Makarios Front”. The New Democratic Front – NEDIPA was led by Alecos Michaelides, former top official of DIKO and President of the Parliament, the Pancyprian Renewal Front – PAME led by Chrysostomos Sofianos, former Minister of Education, and the Union of the Center – EK.

PAME will be dissolved, and NEDIPA will join DISY (December 1987). Earlier, in the 1985 elections, NEDIPA presented candidates οn the DIKO ticket, while the Union of the Center joined DIKO. The Liberal Party, founded by Nikos Rolandis, former foreign minister of Spyros Kyprianou, supported the presidential candidacy of George Vassiliou in February 1988, and the leader was appointed minister of Commerce.

In 19891990, AKEL MPs and other officials left or were expelled from the party because of disagreements over the role of the party and the stance on perestroika, with a colour also of personal rivalries. Together with other leftist forces, they founded the Renewal Democratic Socialist Movement – ADISOK, in April 1990. In the same year, appears a precarious formation “for refugees -displaced persons from the north”, the Pancyprian Refugee Party – PAKOP.

In 1994, former President of the Republic George Vassiliou founded the Movement of Free Democrats – KED. In 1996, Nikos Koutsou founded New Horizons, the only political force that openly positioned itself against a federal solution of the Cyprus Problem. In the same year the Movement of Ecologists – Environmentalists was founded, as a political expression of at least part of the movement that for years supported the protection of the environment.

In 1996 the Movement of Free Democrats – KED and ADISOK merged forces under the name United Democrats – EDI.

In 1998, Alexis Galanos left the Democratic Party – DIKO and founded the Party of European Renewal – KEA. He resigned a little later from the new formation and abdicated also his seat in parliament.

In 2000, Dinos Michaelides, a former DIKO executive, former Minister in the governments of Spyros Kyprianou and Glafkos Clerides, founded the Fighting Democratic Movement – ADIK.

In the 2001 elections, the Ecologists-Environmentalists, the New Horizons – NEO, the United Democrats – EDI and the Fighting Democratic Movement – ADIK won one seat each and entered an eight-party Parliament.

Strong intra-party disagreements and polarization over the acceptance or rejection of the UN Plan (Annan Plan) in 2004, caused splits and expulsions, mainly in DISY, and led to the creation of new movements and parties.

In the first elections for the representation of Cyprus in the European Parliament, in 2004,a temporary scheme, For Europe, won a seat. Several schemes were established later: The European Democracy – EVRODI – 2004 was led by former MPs and DISY executives, while the leader of the Free Citizens Movement party – 2005 was a former DISY MP, a minister at the time in the government of Tassos Papadopoulos. In 2005, New Horizons and EVRODI executives set up a new party, the European Party – EVROKO.
After their failure to win a seat in Parliament in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Free Citizens split (2007) and EVRODI ceased operation.

Changes in political life, with the alienation of a significant part of the electorate from party life and the increase in abstention, created a new environment that led to the creation of new schemes.

In 2013, the National Popular Front – ELAM was founded, a branch in reality of the nationalist extreme right Golden Dawn, in Greece.

In 2014, Giorgos Lillikas, former AKEL MP and minister in the government of Tassos Papadopoulos, founded the Citizens’ Alliance – Symmahia Politon, while in 2015, the former DISY MP and MEP Eleni Theocharous founded Solidarity -Allileggyi, which was joined by leading members of EVROKO.

In the May 2016 elections, Solidarity, the Citizens’ Alliance, ELAM and the Ecologists-Environmentalists, entered the Parliament with two or three deputies each. The 2018 presidential elections caused disagreements and division in the ranks of the Citizens’ Alliance and withdrawals from Solidarity.

A new split occurred in DIKO, following disagreements, expulsions at top level. They led to the creation of the Democratic Front – DIPA, in January 2019.

On 28 July 2020, three DIKO MPs and other executives announced that they quitted the party over disagreements with the management of party affairs.

In addition to parties and movements mentioned above, other groups were formed, with limited influence. Most never disputed election on their own, with an independent ticket, while some cooperated with others, mainly, larger parties.

The Turkish Cypriot Community

A group under the name National Front, led by Fazil Kucuk, contested the first parliamentary and Communal Chamber elections for Turkish Cypriots in July and August 1960. The leadership of the time of both communities attempted without success to avoid elections as a move to present the community united.

The intercommunal conflict that started in Christmas 1963 and the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots from state offices did not lead to the creation of any political formations, until 1970. The announcement of elections in the Republic of Cyprus, albeit for Greek Cypriot members only, and the creation of political parties, led to the founding of the first Turkish Cypriot party. The left wing Republican Turkish Party, with his leader Ahmet Mithat Berberoğlu acted as the opposition force to the domination of Rauf Denktaş, under conditions of community isolation because of intercommunal trouble. Following the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus by the Turkish Army and the division of the island, more political forces emerged.

So, in 1975, Rauf Denktaş founded the conservative National Unity Party – UBP and Alper Orhon the left-wing Populist Party – HP, while, in 1976, Alpay Durduran formed the Communal Liberation Party – TKP, a social democratic movement.

In 1979, defectors from the National Unity Party – UBP created the Democratic People’s Party under Nejat Konuk, and in 1981, the Populist Party – HP merged with it. The first formation claiming to represent Turkish nationals, settlers in Cyprus, appeared in 1979, under the name Turkish Union Party – TBP, with retired Turkish army officer Ismail Tezer as its leader. The party merged with the New Dawn Party – YDP, in early 1985, representing the Turkish settlers.

In 1990, the Republican Turkish Party, the Communal Liberation Party and the Turkish settlers’ party, joined forces under the name Democratic Struggle Party and faced the National Unity Party UBP. The latter won with 54.7% of the vote and an absolute majority of seats. A boycott of the assembly by the opposition forces and a by-election in 1991 saw the UBP holding 46 of the 50 seats.

A new split in the National Unity Party – UBP, following frictions between its leader Derviş Eroğlu and Rauf Denktaş, led to the creation of the Democratic Party – DP, under the leadership of Hakkı Atun in 1992. YDP merged with the DP in 1993, and Atun was succeeded by Serdar, son of Rauf Denktaş. The split saw the UBP and the DP with the same vote and seats share in the early elections of 1993, and the former lost power for the first time. The Democratic Party formed a government with the Republican Turkish Party, which marked a turning point in the latter’s history. UBP eventually returned to power in 1996 in coalition with the Democratic Party.

Following the participation of the Republican Turkish Party – CTP to power, a change in leadership also took place with Mehmet Ali Talat succeeding Özker Özgür, in 1996.

As from 1998, elections were contested under a new system of block vote, where one could give votes of preference to candidates across party lists. A coalition of UBP and TKP governed until mid 2001, when it collapsed following a public row between Mustafa Akıncı and a Turkish general, chief of Security forces.

In 2000, Rauf Denktaş’s power appeared weakened as in his bid for re-election he faced for the first time a second round challenge by Derviş Eroğlu. His opponent withdrew before the vote.

The prospects of an eventual solution and Cyprus joining the European Union generated a strong movement in the Turkish Cypriot community with tens of organisations joining forces under the slogan “this country is ours”. The movement started in 2000 and organised massive demonstrations until the election of December 2003. These were projected as a crucial contest for the future of the community and the island as a whole. A new movement, the Peace and Democracy Movement – BDH, headed by Mustafa Akıncı, was also born. CTP and various forces signed a common manifest in September 2003 about solution and Cyprus entry into the European Union. They contested elections under the label CTP-BG – Republican Turkish Party – United Forces. However, the fragmentation of political forces resulted in left and conservative forces finishing head to head, commanding 25 seats each. For a second time, the Republican Turkish Party – CTP, which finished first, with 35.2%, ahead of the National Unity Party, 32.9%, shared power with the Democratic Party, with Mehmet Ali Talat, heading the coalition. The Democratic Party opposed participation of the BDH.

Early elections were again on the agenda in February 2005, following the collapse of the coalition, and CTP was the clear winner. Two months later, Talat won the elections against main opponent Eroğlu and succeeded to Rauf Denktaş, who did not seek re-election.

The situation reverted to the dominance of the conservative forces, when Eroğlu, who had appeared to have retired from politics in 2006, returned in 2009 with a victory for his party UBP in April 2009 and for himself, winning against incumbent Talat.

A reversal took place again in an early contest in July 2013, with CTP, under a new leader – Özkan Yorgancıoğlu the winner.

In 2015, Mustafa Akıncı was elected in a -two-round contest against Derviş Eroğlu, Sibel Siber – candidate of CTP and former Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Özersay.

The January 2018 election was contested under a new system that goes beyond block vote. One can give preference votes to candidates not only across party lists of his/her constituency, but also of other constituencies. Again, CTP and UBP alternated on top, with UBP, which had a new leader Hüseyin Özgürgün, securing 35.6%, and CTP down to 20.9% only. A new force emerged, the People’s Party – HP (f. 2016) of Kudret Özersay, with its share at 17.1%.