Constitutional framework and legal system of Cyprus

Adopted in 1960, the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus provided that executive power be exercised by a Turkish Cypriot vice presidentand a Greek Cypriot president, elected to five-year terms by universal suffrage, and that there be a cabinet (Council of Ministers) comprising three Turkish Cypriot and seven Greek Cypriot members. It also called for a 50-seat elected House of Representatives divided between Turkish and Greek Cypriots in the proportion of 15 to 35 and elected for terms of five years.

The constitution, resulting from the negotiations in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1959 between representatives of the governments of Turkey and Greece, was not extensively accepted by the citizens of the new republic. The Greek Cypriots, whose tussle against the British had been for enosis (union with Greece) and not for freedom, regretted the failure to attain this national aspiration. As a result, it was not very long after the establishment of the republic that the Greek Cypriot majority began to regard many of the provisions, particularly those linked to finance and to local government, as impracticable. Proposals for amendments were overruled by the Turkish government, and, after the outbreak of conflict between the two Cypriot communities in late 1963, the constitution was suspended. In the Republic of Cyprus post the Turkish occupation of 1974, the constitution’s provisions remained in force where practicable; the main formal change has been the rise in the number of seats in the House of Representatives to 80, although the 24 seats allocated to Turks have remained vacant.

On the Turkish side of the demarcation line, there has been in place, since 1974, a popularly elected president, prime minister, and legislative assembly, all serving five-year terms of office. A new constitution was approved for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) by its electorate in 1985.

Local government in the Republic of Cyprus is at the village, rural municipality, municipal, and district levels. District officers are appointees of the government; local councils are elected, as are the mayors of municipalities.

The legal code of Cyprus is based on Roman law. In the Greek Cypriot zone, judges are appointees of the government, but the judiciary is totally independent of the executive power. The Supreme Court is the utmost court and also serves as the final appeals court in the republic. A Permanent Assize Court enjoys criminal jurisdiction over the whole island, and district courts handle civil, criminal, and admiralty matters. The Turkish Cypriot zone has a similar justice system.

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