Between Scylla and Charybdis: Cyprus and the problem of engineering political settlements for divided societies

Christalla Yakinthou

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Conflict in deeply divided societies often has a profound impact both on the societies in which the conflict is located, and on the surrounding states and societies. Constitutional engineers working in such societies are inevitably attracted to power-sharing as a means of stabilising inter-group relations. Consociational democracy is a form of power-sharing democracy which is particularly attractive for a divided society, because its demands on the society are relatively few. It aims to separate the communities in the conflict as much as possible, while emphasising elite co-operation in the formal institutions of government. A difficulty with consociational democracy, however, is that the elite co-operation it requires to function is also required for the system to be adopted, yet will not necessarily be present. Cyprus is an excellent example of the difficulty of gaining agreement on a consociational regime for a divided society. In 1963, the consociational Republic of Cyprus collapsed as a result of mistrust between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 2004, a consociational system of government was designed for Cyprus by a team of UN experts under the direction of then-Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The system of government was rejected in April 2004 at a referendum, and, consequently, was not adopted. This thesis examines why Cyprus has thus far been unable to adopt a political settlement. Failure is as hard to explain as success. Success may have many fathers and failure none, but there are as many possible causes of a failure as of a success. There is also the difficulty of the counter-factual: what facts would need to be different to produce success where experience is only of failure. The thesis systematically examines possible causes of failure, including the idea of consociational democracy itself, the particular consociational designs proposed for Cyprus, and the influence of historical aspirations and experiences. Particular attention is paid to the idea that there may be key factors which must be present before a consociational solution can be adopted. The factors, selected for this case study for their apparent relevance to Cyprus, are elite co-operation, segmental isolation, a balance of power between the disputant groups, and the ability of the international community to offer incentives for compromise. It is argued that these factors, especially elite relations and the complex web of causes which determine these, are central to an explanation of the Cyprus experience.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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