By Constantinos Psillides
A comprehensive bill asking for sweeping electoral reform will be proposed by ruling party DISY within the next two weeks, party spokesman Prodromos Prodromou told the Cyprus Mail.
Prodromou was commenting on a report saying the bill was in its final stages.
The bill calls for raising the electoral bar from 1.8 per cent to 4 per cent, increasing the number of seats in the parliament, introducing the horizontal (cross-party) vote as well as holding municipal elections on the same day as parliamentary elections.
“We are now in the final stages of drafting the bill. Our lawyers are going through the proposed bill and we expect them to be ready in one week, two at the latest,” said Prodromou.
According to Prodromou, increasing the number of MPs was a necessity for introducing cross-party voting as it will only affect those seats. “Districts weren’t keen in relinquishing seats in the parliament for the sake of introducing cross-party voting. So, we thought it was best if we increased the number of parliamentarians and make clear that cross-party voting will only apply to those seats.”
Prodromou admitted that DISY hasn’t settled on the number of seats to be added, saying that it will probably be five, six or seven.
While cross-party voting has the public’s support, DISY is expected to have a hard time convincing main opposition party AKEL. AKEL officials stated multiple times in the past that they oppose cross-party voting on the grounds that it would benefit richer candidates, since they have the financial means to afford a bigger media exposure.
Asked by the Cyprus Mail, AKEL spokesman Giorgos Loucaides declined to comment on the proposed bill. He made clear that he didn’t wish to enter into a public debate on the subject. “There will come a time in the near future when we will be called to discuss the matter with everyone involved. Only then will we lay our cards on the table,” said the AKEL spokesman.
Probably the most controversial proposal is raising the electoral bar from 1.8 per cent to four per cent. Currently 1.8 per cent of the vote is enough for a party to claim a seat in parliament. At present, this would exclude the Green Party, Citizens’ Alliance and EVROKO from a seat in parliament.
Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis in the past called raising the electoral bar “anti-democratic, an action that promotes abstention and enhances the two-party system.”
The initial DISY proposal called for a five per cent electoral bar but the party settled for four, following meetings party leader Averof Neophytou had with parliamentary parties in June.
It should be noted that AKEL looks favourably on raising the electoral bar, since the party tried to introduce a similar bill in 2010. The bill then asked for raising the electoral bar to 3.5 per cent.
Besides gathering support from other parties, Prodromou noted that the bill’s biggest problem was coming up with a way of holding the municipal and parliamentary elections together. Both elections are scheduled to be held in 2016.
“This is easier said than done. We can either have both elections in May or October of 2016. Holding the elections in May means that we will have to extend all municipal officials’ terms for six months. On the other hand, if we hold the elections in October then we will have to extent the parliamentarians’ terms for six months,” said Prodromou.
The DISY spokesman explained that a lame duck local authority would potentially be a serious problem, since mayors and municipal councils have executive powers. “We can’t have people who were ousted making decisions for six months. That could potentially lead to some serious problems.”
When it comes to extending the parliamentarians terms, Prodromou admitted that people would react to it but that it was preferable to the alternative.