Freedom in the World 2017 - Cyprus

Freedom Status: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 
Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 

The Republic of Cyprus is a parliamentary democracy that has de jure sovereignty over the entire island. In practice, however, the government controls only the southern, largely Greek-speaking part of the island, as the northern area is ruled by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. The two sections are separated by a UN buffer zone. Political rights and civil liberties are generally respected in the Republic of Cyprus. Ongoing concerns include societal discrimination against minority groups and flaws in the asylum system that lead to prolonged detention and premature deportations.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • In March, after years of austerity, Cyprus was able to exit a 2013 financial bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU) that had enabled it to survive a banking crisis. 
  • The center-right Democratic Rally (DISY) won the most seats in parliamentary elections in May, though it lost ground compared with 2011 as three new parties entered the parliament.
  • The government continued UN-sponsored reunification talks with representatives of Northern Cyprus during the year, and a breakdown over territorial issues in November was followed by pledges to resume negotiations in early 2017.
Executive Summary: 

As the country’s economy, banking system, and fiscal position continued to recover in 2016, Cyprus in March was able to formally exit the bailout agreement that it entered into with the IMF and the EU in 2013. In spite of this progress, the economy still faced many challenges, most notably a high level of nonperforming loans in the banking sector and a relatively large public debt.

The economic hardship that Cypriots have experienced in recent years continued to unsettle the political landscape. Parliamentary elections in May resulted in three new parties entering the parliament, including the far-right National Popular Front (ELAM), which secured 2 of the 56 seats at stake. The center-right DISY of President Nicos Anastasiades led the voting with 18 seats, down slightly from 2011, followed by the left-wing Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) with 16, also a decline. The Democratic Party (DIKO) received 9 seats, the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) took 3, and the Green Party secured 2. Aside from ELAM, the other two parties entering for the first time were the center-left Citizens’ Alliance (SYPOL), which won 3 seats, and the right-wing Solidarity, an offshoot of DISY that also received 3 seats. Turnout was the second-lowest ever recorded at 66.7 percent, reflecting voter disillusionment.

Although only small numbers of irregular migrants and refugees have arrived in Cyprus in recent years, due in part to the difficulty of traveling on from Cyprus to more desirable locations in Northern Europe, the government continued to face criticism during 2016 for its slow processing of asylum applications, restrictive conditions for granting asylum, and long-term detention of asylum seekers in prison-like conditions.

Since the 2015 election of a new, pro-reunification president in Northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akıncı, talks between the two sides have raised hopes for a lasting solution to the island’s partition, which resulted from a 1974 Turkish invasion of the north following a coup aimed at union with Greece. The talks broke down in November 2016 amid disagreement on the territorial divisions of a new federal state, among other issues, but representatives quickly agreed to resume the negotiations in January 2017.

Political Rights

Political Rights 38 / 40

A. Electoral Process 11 / 12

A1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


B. Political Pluralism and Participation 16 / 16

B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?


C. Functioning of Government 11 / 12

C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties 56 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 15 / 16

D1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?


E. Associational and Organizational Rights 12 / 12

E1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


F. Rule of Law 15 / 16

F1. Is there an independent judiciary?
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 14 / 16

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Cyprus, see Freedom in the World 2016.