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Richard Dunphy and Tim Bale, "Red Flag Still Flying? Explaining AKEL - Cyprus's Communist Anomaly," Party Politics, 13 (May 2007), 287-304.

First paragraph:
The Cypriot communist party (properly known as AKEL--Anorthotiko Komma tou Ergazomenou Laou--Progressive Party of Working People) is one of the most interesting and unusual political parties in Europe today. The party's red and gold logo proudly displays the date 1926 (marking the foundation of its forerunner, the Kommounistiko Komma Kyprou--KKK) as well as the traditional hammer in the clenched fist. Yet it is also one of the few communist parties in Europe that has seen its electoral support grow throughout the 1990s and into the present century: true, the legislative elections of May 2006 saw it slip back slightly from the 35 percent of the popular vote it won in 2001 (see Christophorou, 2002); but on 31 percent it remains the single largest party in the House of Representatives. It is the only communist party that continues to dominate the political left in an EU member state, easily out-polling its social democratic rivals. It is also the only self-declared communist party in Europe to hold a significant clutch of ministerial seats as a result of its kingmaking role in presidential elections. And it is one of the few parties, of either left or right, that has managed to buck the pan-European trend towards declining party membership, remaining a truly mass party with a relatively steady membership.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Present-day parties and party families in the Republic of Cyprus

Last Paragraph:
Aspects of Cypriot political culture have so far served to cushion many of the island's parties from severe fluctuations in their fortunes. Ideological polarization--primed and promoted by parties like AKEL--runs deep, and most people have a strong sense of belonging to the right or the left. Voting patterns are relatively stable. Cyprus is a very small country and politics has an immediacy and an intimacy now missing in larger countries, if indeed it ever existed. Turnout is high. Clientelist relations abound. Cypriot parties tend to function in part as large, extended families or clans that look after the interests of their members and supporters and provide a strong sense of belonging. Politics is very much a family business: many AKEL leaders are the children (and grandchildren) of previous generations of AKEL activists, and deserting the party or attacking its leaders or traditions in public is almost akin to impugning the honour of the family. Thus, the danger of dissent and desertions is reduced and the room for manoeuvre of leadership elites is increased. And yet such a conservative (and, we should add, overwhelmingly patriarchal) political culture can also encourage slow, gradual atrophy. Skilful leadership is needed to ensure the right balance between change and continuity--just as it was for the communist successor parties of Central and Eastern Europe (Grzymala-Busse, 2002). AKEL has been fortunate in this respect so far, but this holds no guarantees for the future.

last updated June 2007