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Our View: Presidential democracy at the heart of the foreclosures legal debate

THE TWO sides – government and House of Representatives – yesterday presented their respective cases, with regard to the four bills the president had decided to refer to the Supreme Court, the full bench of which is expected to issue a decision on October 31.

It is an extremely important decision, with the Supreme Court judges having the power to derail the adjustment programme, shatter the fragile confidence in the banking sector and revive the prospect of state bankruptcy. In mitigation the judges could argue that their responsibility is to establish whether or not the legislature’s bill were constitutional and not to take a decision based on what the possible consequences of upholding the bills referred by the president would be.

The issue, however, is broader than the actual bills which the political parties passed on the pretext of protecting primary residences from bank repossessions that would be facilitated by the foreclosures law. It centres on the separation of powers which are safeguarded by the constitution. The attorney-general and his team, representing the government, argued that the bills passed by the House infringed on the powers of the executive while the lawyers of the House argued that the legislature had acted within their constitutional rights.

We are sure there are many technical, legal arguments supporting each side’s case, but in practical terms there have been many instances of the legislature acting as if this were a parliamentary rather than a presidential democracy. During the Christofias presidency, AKEL, often referred to the legislature as a ‘governing legislature’ for muscling in on the authorities of the executive. These accusations were justified, to an extent. There have also been many times in the past that the Supreme Court ruled laws unconstitutional because they infringed on the powers of the executive.

And there can be little doubt, in practical terms, that the legislature has usurped the powers of the executive. The executive signed the Memorandum of Understanding by which it agreed to implement a series of measures in exchange for receiving financial assistance worth €10 billion. However, the bills the legislature passed would prevent the executive honouring the agreement because they would block the implementation of the foreclosures law which the government was committed to putting in force by the end of August. One of the bills, ludicrously, would suspend implementation of the foreclosures law until the insolvency law was in force, while the other bills would place obstacles in its enforcement.

In other words, the legislative authority would be preventing the executive from honouring an agreement, only the executive had the constitutional power to make. If this is not ruled a blatant infringement on the constitutional powers of the executive, by the Supreme Court, we should stop considering the country a presidential democracy.

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