The 1960 Constitution in Brief

 

At a conference in Zurich on 11 February 1959, agreement was reached between Greece and Turkey on a plan for a settlement, and following a conference in London, attended by the representatives of Greece, Turkey, Britain and the two Cypriot communities on 19 February, an agreement was signed for the final settlement of the Cyprus dispute.

On the basis of the above Agreements, a constitution was drafted and Cyprus was proclaimed an independent state on 16 August 1960. The Constitution provided for power to be split between the two communities – Greek and Turkish. The President had to be a Greek Cypriot elected by the Greek Cypriots, and the Vice-President a Turkish Cypriot elected by the Turkish Cypriots. The Vice-President was granted the right of a final veto on fundamental laws passed by the House of Representatives and on decisions of the Council of Ministers which was composed of ten ministers, three of whom had to be Turkish Cypriots nominated for appointment by the Vice-President.

The House of Representatives comprised of 35 Greek Cypriot members and 15 Turkish Cypriot members, elected from their respective communities. The House had no power to modify the Constitution in any respect in so far as it concerned its basic articles and any other modification required a majority of two thirds of both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot members. Any modification of the Electoral Law and the adoption of any law relating to municipalities or any fiscal laws required separate simple majorities of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot members of the House.

Furthermore, separate Greek and Turkish Communal Chambers were created with legislative and administrative powers in regard to education, religion, culture, and other matters. Also, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the High Court of Justice, had to be presided over by neutral presidents, ie not of Greek Cypriot nor Turkish Cypriot origin. The Turkish Cypriots held 30 % of the posts in the Civil Service and comprised 40 % of the Police Force and Army.

As a result of the above, the proper functioning of the state became difficult and festered divisions rather than promoting cooperation and unity.  It is noteworthy to mention that the United Nations Mediator on Cyprus, Dr. Galo Plaza, in paragraph 129 of his March 1965 report to the U.N. Secretary-General, stated that difficulties begun almost immediately after independence and in paragraph 163 described the 1960 Constitution as “a constitutional oddity”.

In November 1963, following a series of problems between the two communities and the functioning of the government, the then President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios suggested thirteen amendments to the Constitution to impove the functionality of the government. Those amendments were immediately rejected by the Government of Turkey, to which they had been communicated for information, prompting the Turkish Cypriot leadership to follow suit. This was the final rift in the malfunctioning joint government, as the Turkish Cypriots walked out of the government after this.

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