Parliament on Thursday postponed enacting two bills which, among others, would ease the path for Turkish Cypriots to vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
Legal experts asked for time to tweak the bills. The two items will be discussed further at the House interior committee on Monday, and brought to the plenum on Thursday, March 13.
The first bill makes it possible to automatically register on the general electoral roll persons who are eligible to vote. The interior ministry will send out letters to individuals who become eligible to vote over the next three months. In the event a person does not respond within the set deadline, he or she will be automatically registered on the electoral list.
This applies to citizens whose usual residence is in the government-controlled areas.
The second bill, pertaining to the European Parliament (EP) elections, makes it possible to automatically register on the special electoral roll persons eligible to vote who reside in the occupied areas, provided they are of voting age (18) and possess a Cyprus Republic identification card.
Officials from the attorney-general’s office on Thursday asked lawmakers to delay the bill while they iron out certain clauses which they deem to be unconstitutional. The officials said the bills, as they stand, discriminate against naturalised Cypriots or repatriated Greek Cypriots who are not registered on electoral rolls and are not automatically listed on them.
Support for the bills is strong, with ruling DISY and AKEL outright in favour.
Once passed, the new laws would for the first time allow Turkish Cypriots to participate in the European Parliament elections, held in the south. Some 95,000 Turkish Cypriots with a Cyprus Republic ID card would be eligible to cast a ballot as well as stand for election as MEP.
Since Cyprus’ accession to the EU in 2004, Turkish Cypriots have demanded the right to fill two of the six seats in the EP reserved for Cyprus prior to a comprehensive Cyprus problem solution, through holding elections in the occupied areas.
Previously, all Republic citizens eligible to vote had to register with the interior ministry on the electoral roll before being allowed to participate in elections.
Now, Turkish Cypriots will be able to vote for a Member of the EP by crossing the buffer zone and showing their ID cards at a polling station, technically paving the way for the first Turkish Cypriot MEP in Strasbourg.
The Turkish Cypriot leadership has widely denounced the move, citing the 1960 Treaties establishing the Cyprus Republic which gave the Turkish Cypriot community the right to hold their own elections, albeit, under the supervision of the Republic.