The Democratic Party (DIKO) was founded by Spyros Kyprianou, in 1976, under the name Democratic Front (DIPA). Kyprianou served as foreign minister in the Makarios government from August 1960 to June 1972, when he was fired at the behest of the Greek dictator Georges Papadopoulos. He returned to politics after the events of summer 1974, the coup against Makarios and the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish Army. The coup and the devastation caused by the Turkish invasion created problems to the traditional right, because of the participation in or support of the coup by officials of the United Party (Eniaion) and the Progressive Front (Proodeftiki Parataxi). In addition, the rift between Makarios and Clerides in April 1976 caused fractures in the power elites.

The Democratic Front seized the opportunity and through the manipulation of the majority system, in cooperation with AKEL and EDEK, the three formations secured all parliamentary seats in the elections of September 1976. They ruled out the Democratic Rally, which, in cooperation with the Democratic National Party received 27% of the vote. Based on the agreement of the three, DIPA received 60% of the seats, three times more than its share in votes that was estimated between 20 and 25%.
Makarios’ sudden death, a year later (August 1977) brought Spyros Kyprianou to the presidency and turned the Democratic Front (hereinafter the Democratic Party) into a party of power.

DIKO brought to the fore a new power team, with officials from the farmers’ union (PEK) and various pro-Makarios organizations, as well as newcomers from the petty bourgeoisie and the middle class. It applied various methods, including non-ethical ones, to expand its power and influence. Despite the enormous effort undertaken, and after a rift with key party officials, who left in 1980 and formed new parties, DIKO received in May 1981 only 19.5% of the vote.

A rift erupted in 1980 between President Kyprianou and AKEL too, which, however, was “overcome” with the “minimum co-operation program” for government. It was agreed in April 1982, and AKEL’s support ensured the re-election of Spyros Kyprianou in the February 1983 presidential election.

DIKO established its power among the pro- Makarios masses, right-wing and center-right voters who despised and fought against the Democratic Rally, but also center-left voters who did not like EDEK or AKEL. The opposition and enmity to DISY were founded on its merger with the Democratic National Party (DEK), as well as its support by or participation in it of persons involved in the coup against Makarios. The second big group to join DIKO were those who usually choose to connect or relate with those in power, hoping or seeking to draw benefit from this. The system of appointments in the public service and in the wider public sector has been a key tool in the development by DIKO of its clientelist relationship with the voter.

A first look at the electoral map depicting the distribution of the party’s influence in the 1981 elections shows that its highest influence is located mainly in very small and small communities (with 32% and 26.5% versus 19.5% overall vote). These rates are gradually reduced to 14.5% as we move into large rural communities, where prevails a polarisation between AKEL and DISY, both having a very high vote share.
The situation is changing again in the cities and suburbs, where the bulk of employees in the wider public sector are concentrated, with the share of DIKO in 1981 reaching 18.5%.

After the loss of power in 1988, the situation changed for DIKO, although its participation in the first Clerides government (1993-1988) offered it the opportunity to further strengthen his clientelist relations through services to friends and followers. DISY’s and DIKO’s relations had already improved after the former supported the election of the latter’s vice chairman Alexis Galanos to the presidency of the House f Representatives, in mid-1991. An alliance followed also for the municipal elections of late 1991.

Since 1991, the party’s influence in urban centers has been slightly higher than in rural areas. The party’s performance in the 2001 elections was marked by losses, spread all over the island, without any particular factor playing a distinctive role. Individual gains for the party did not appear to connect with any specific reason.

DIKO returned to power in 2003, with support from AKEL and EDEK. President Tassos Papadopoulos’ policy on the Cyprus issue and good performance in the economy, combined with its rejection of the Annan Plan in April 2004, seemed to strengthen DIKO. High hopes for a return to its old rates were dashed in 2006, and the party remained at 17.9%. Its participation in the government of Demetris Christofias of AKEL, after the failure of Tassos Papadopoulos to be re-elected in 2008, did not improve the situation for DIKO. In the May 2011 elections, DIKO’s influence was reduced by two points and losses continued in 2016, when the party secured 14.50%. In the meantime, abstention rates have risen from around 10% in the early 2000s to more than 33% in 2016.

During the period from 1981 until today, DIKO has suffered large losses of influence, with those in the countryside being more than double the losses suffered in urban and sub-urban areas. The party’s power base is mainly in urban areas, a link with its influence through control and services offered from the participation of DIKO cadres in positions in the administration and semi-governmental bodies.

It is worth mentioning that the party’s influence among persons displaced after the 1974 invasion from the northern part of Cyprus has always been lower than the average of its overall strength. This is more pronounced among persons coming from the Famagusta district, a constituency of high polarization, where DISY and AKEL have particularly high vote share. One can also observe that, over time, DIKO’s losses among displaced persons significantly exceed its average losses, despite its nationalist stance on the Cyprus Problem.

A special characteristic of DIKO has been the outbreak of internal rifts that have repeatedly led to splits and / or banning of key party officials. The multiple split suffered in 1980 and during the presidential election of 1998 were not the only ones. A controversy erupted in 2013, when the party decided to support the candidacy of Nicos Anastasiades. Some DIKO officials including vice-chairman Nicholas Papadopoulos worked for Giorgos Lillikas. Papadopoulos resigned from his post in January 2013. One year later he was elected party president, ousting Marios Garoyan. DIKO ministers in the Anastasiades government chose to keep their portfolios despite the party’s decision to leave. The 2018 presidential elections offered a new opportunity for mass expulsions, which led to the creation of a new party by banned DIKO members. It was named Democratic Front (DIPA), after the founding name of DIKO, and it is led by former leader Garoyan. In many cases, dissidents have returned back to the party.