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21 May, 2024
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The first presidential election in Cyprus held in 1959

How Glafkos Clerides attempted to persuade his father, John, to withdraw from the process

by Apostolos Kouroupakis

On December 13, 1959, the young Republic of Cyprus held its first presidential elections. Glafkos Clerides, who opposed his father John's candidacy and was accused of failing to follow the Christian commandment to "honor thy father and thy mother," was the main figure in that first election in 1959. "To mother and father and to other ancestors of the ancestors of the ancestors, the Patrice is more honorable and more modest and holier," Glafkos Clerides retorted in the words of the ancient Greeks. The candidates were Archbishop Makarios, regarded as the undeniable head of the Greek Cypriots and supported by the EOKA fighters.  Makarios' opponent was the lawyer Ioannis Clerides, former mayor of Nicosia, who was supported by AKEL forces as well as those who opposed the Zurich-London agreements and were united in the "Democratic Union," including Polycarpos Ioannidis, Themistocles Dervis, and others.

The President of the Republic is elected by the Greek community for a term of five years, after a universal and secret ballot, having secured an absolute majority of valid votes.

Glafkos Clerides mentions in his book "My testimony" that he tried to persuade his father to withdraw his candidacy in order to avoid a showdown with Makarios. Although the Archbishop would have won an election, it would have called the Zurich and London Treaties into question. Following a discussion between John and Glafkos Clerides, as well as the latter's meeting with Makarios, a meeting was arranged in the old Archdiocese, with Glafkos attending as a common acquaintance. In early November 1959, six weeks before the presidential elections, a meeting was held in the old archbishopric [...] Makarios started the conversation by greeting Yannis Clerides. 'Mr. Clerides, you have a very convincing son,' he said abruptly, avoiding the subject of agreements.  He has persuaded me that, for the sake of Cyprus, I must appoint some of my critics as advisers. Ioannis Clerides responded that he understood my logic. He stated that he had given the opposition groups his word that he would run as their candidate and that he would not back down unless they agreed to my proposal as well. He also stated that he had requested a meeting to discuss the issue and that it would be very helpful if he could assure the opposition groups that, following his unopposed election, Makarios would appoint a new cabinet and treat the current ministers as short-term. This question caught me off guard. It also surprised Makarios, who had expected me to step in as a common acquaintance. That is exactly what I did.  I explained that we were discussing my proposal to appoint certain political figures as advisors rather than ministers. My suggestion was not to change ministers but to combine experience with the new spirit generated by the struggle and expressed by those who participated. 'I think your son has answered your question, Mr. Clerides,' Makarios said to Ioannis Clerides. 'Yes, he answered me,' said my father.

The role of the president from a constitutional point of view

The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus in Article 1 states: "The State of Cyprus shall be an independent and sovereign Republic, of a presidential system, whose President shall be a Greek and Vice President a Turkish, elected respectively by the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus, as defined in this Constitution". This constitutional requirement, due to the withdrawal of the TCs from the constitutional bodies of the Republic of Cyprus, is not being applied until, of course, a solution is found that will return the country to constitutional and civil normality.

Article 36 expressly states that the President of the Republic is the Head of State and has precedence over everything in the Republic. As far as the constitutional provisions for the election of the President of the Republic are concerned, these are defined by Article 39, paragraph 2 of the Constitution which states: 'The candidate who receives fifty percent of the valid votes cast shall be elected. If none of the candidates obtains the required number of votes, the election shall be repeated on the corresponding day of the following week between the two candidates who obtain the highest number of valid votes cast, and the candidate who obtains the highest number of valid votes cast at the repeat election shall be considered elected.

The President of the Republic shall be elected for a five-year term by the Greek community, as defined in the Constitution, by universal and secret ballot, with an absolute majority of valid votes cast. The office of President of the Republic is incompatible with any "office of minister or member of parliament or member of the Community Assembly or municipal council, including the mayor, or with membership in the armed forces or the security forces of the Republic, or with any other public or municipal office or position," according to Article 41 of the Constitution.

According to Article 42, the President and Vice-President of the Republic are installed by the House of Representatives, before which they affirm: 'I solemnly affirm my loyalty and respect for the Constitution and the laws consistent therewith, and for the preservation of the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus'.

Amendment to Article 40

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution Law of 2019 added subsection e to Article 40 of the Constitution, which now prohibits a third term as President of the Republic, by referring to the formal requirements of being a citizen of the Republic, being 35 years of age or older, not having been convicted, and not suffering from a mental illness. The amendment also states in the fifth paragraph that the person must not have served consecutively as President or Vice-President of the Republic for the two terms preceding this one.  Article 40 may be amended because, as stated in the Preamble to the Law, Article 40 of the Constitution is not one of the fundamental Articles of the Constitution that cannot be amended or repealed in any way, and because, as a result of the ongoing Turkish occupation and the exceptional conditions prevailing in Cyprus as a result, Turkish Cypriots do not participate in the functioning of the House of Representatives, and because the law of necessity justifies it. 

[This article was first published in Kathimerini's Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  elections  |  history

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