The 1946 Municipal Elections
British optimism for the decline of communist influence in Cyprus completely dissipated in the wake of AKEL’s accomplishments in the municipal elections of May 1946.59 The election campaigns, according to the Cyprus government, ‘followed traditional lines’: pro-enosis, anti-British messages combined with assassinations of opponents’ characters. The political platforms, particularly of the right-wing, lacked constructiveness, for which there was supposedly little demand.60
AKEL, campaigning through its National Unity Party, surprised everyone when it gained in every municipality and received the majority of the urban, rural and, therefore, overall votes. AKEL bolstered its control over Limassol and Famagusta, recaptured control in Nicosia, and won control in Larnaca for the first time.61 It also undermined the Cyprus government’s assumptions regarding the pro-British, anti-communist rural population by winning six of the nine rural municipalities.62 The colonial government reported to the Colonial Office that while many of the National Unity Party councillors were not Akelists, reports of AKEL’s political atrophy had been discredited. Luke lamented this ‘sweeping victory for the Communists’. Barton speculated that ‘we shall have a political murder or two in the not distant future in Cyprus, now that Communism is rampant’.63
British officials’ dismay stemmed from a limited understanding of AKEL’s electoral appeal, which was in part rooted in the Greek Civil War. Because the Greek royalists depended on British support in the civil war, the Greek-Cypriot nationalists were forced to run on a platform of anticommunist and ‘mild anti-colonial tactics’, both of which were framed in the negative. AKEL, through its unrestrained pro-enosis stance, took the advantage of appearing more patriotic and more constructive, especially to those who feared an expansion of the Greek Civil War onto Cypriot soil. AKEL was ‘open and socially moderate, nationally irreproachable and institutionally well organised’.64 Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, AKEL’s achievements in social welfare and its domination of effective trade unionism appealed to the working classes.65
The British were now faced with AKEL at the height of its political and social power. As we will see in Part II, AKEL’s municipal victories, the failure of Woolley’s legalistic and negative approach, and the wider imperial Cold War context prompted a significant overhaul of British colonial rule. British policy-maker’s ‘new deal’ replaced repression with liberalization and a move towards greater self-government, aimed largely at meeting the communists on the cultural battlefields of the Cold War of rival imperialisms.