Party politics in Cyprus bear and are largely affected by birthmarks of the 1940s when first political life started. In spite of the many changes that Cyprus has undergone since then, the cleavage established in the 1940s between left and right commands to a great extent daily politics.

The features of this cleavage are a consolidated divide beyond class and ideology that became part of the people’s daily life to our days. Separate trade unions, political, business, cultural, sport and other associations, employment in businesses, the purchase of ideologically marked goods and services and other daily activities transcend all aspects of life, beyond politics and ideology and perpetuate the divide. The left-right cleavage is also favoured by the presidential system in that the high threshold for the election of the President of the Republic imposes a forced polarisation, while at the same time government stability allows fragmentation of political forces. Whatever the composition of the parliament, the President elected and his government remain in office for five years as they need no vote of confidence. An additional factor, favouring the divide is the protracted Cyprus Problem and in particular the categorisation of political parties on the basis of their positions on a solution to the division of the island. As far as the issue is found in a stalemate and no prospects for a solution appear, this cleavage line remains dormant and has little effect on daily politics and elections. It feeds however daily debates in the media, allowing among other to sustain the divide between nationalist groups  and the more conciliatory forces. This also affects the survival chances of new formations.

DISY and AKEL have managed to sustain a stable electorate throughout the years for reasons direct linked to their roots, based on the traditional conservative forces of the right and on the historical role played in support of the working class respectively. For AKEL, however, the bid has been linked to its strong organisation features; with its affiliated organisations, trade unions and the cooperative movement it had secured a daily contact with the mass of people, in relation with their immediate concerns, needs and interests. In addition, the party drew benefit from influence it can exert on thousands of families employed in businesses under its control.

Political life in Cyprus is also largely influenced by history and the colonial legacy, the under- and slow development of institutions and liberal democratic values. This allows parties to play a dominant role in society on the basis of services the citizen expects from parties in his/her interaction to the administration, employment in the broader public sector and other business. Steps of strengthening institutions that were made in recent years remain insufficient and a large part of the electorate has remained attached to parties in a non-critical relationship.

Important changes, in particular after 2005, in the structure and characteristics of society, social conditions and economic development, party inherent and other contradictions and inconsistencies in political life have eroded credibility and trust and have alienated an important part of the electorate from public life. However party influence and their hold on the political life, the potential to political recruitment and, more importantly, parties’ role in offering services and favours to citizens make them a pole of attraction of all those seeking offices or arrangement of personal or family affairs with the administration.

Under the Constitution and the presidential system of government, the parliament and parties have limited powers, which could normally lead to their weakening of influence and minimise also fragmentation of political forces. In fact we are witnessing the contrary. The need for a majority vote to elect the president of the Republic makes every single vote count. Thus, small formations that, in some cases, have never contested elections, can “sell” their votes for a ministerial portfolio or a seat won in alliance with a major party, or other benefits. The proportional system in parliamentary and other elections also favours the formation of small parties.

As a result, tens of parties have appeared since Independence in 1960, though only five or six have established a long-term presence in the House of Representatives.