By Angelos Anastasiou
President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday lambasted a proposal by opposition party EDEK to postpone a crucial House plenary session set to vote on insolvency legislation, scheduled for April 17.
Delays in drafting insolvency legislation – a set of laws governing bankruptcy procedures – have thrown Cyprus’ economic adjustment programme off track since last December, when parliament voted to suspend implementation of tougher foreclosure rules, and subsequently renewed the suspension until April 17.
In the meantime, insolvency legislation was finalised and taken to the House, which decided to vote on it during an extraordinary plenary session on the date the suspension ends.
An informal headcount revealed that the vote would be a dead heat, with 28 deputies on each side of the aisle, but a trip to Greece by Anastasiades on April 17 would serve as the effective tie-breaker in favour of lifting the suspension on foreclosures and passing insolvency, since House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou would be acting President and not allowed a vote.
This prompted some to accuse Anastasiades of leaving the country deliberately on that date, in order to produce the required outcome in the House session. Socialist EDEK responded to what it saw as an unfair move with calls to postpone the House vote until Anastasiades’ return.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Anastasiades said he was disappointed in the conspiracy theories that have emerged.
“It’s as if we are talking about a bill that relates to political party gains,” he said.
“And no one realises that the effort to scupper this law, which fully secures the rights of vulnerable groups, ends up hurting Cyprus itself.”
Anastasiades attacked the notion that a vote by the plenum could be postponed on the grounds of absent deputies, as it would open the door to endless politicking.
“The notion that in order to have a vote or a plenary session all deputies should be present is unheard of,” he charged.
“When has a session ever been postponed due to the absence of deputies?” he asked.
He then flipped the question on its head to drive the point home.
“And suppose that, on the new date after it has been postponed, deputies in favour of passing the bill are absent – what then? Will we keep postponing it and abandon the House of Representatives’ international obligations?”
“I think a little more seriousness is required by everyone.”
The government has been growing increasingly impatient for a way out of the impasse over the last few months, as it has caused a break in the inflow of cash from Cyprus’ international creditors and left the country ineligible for inclusion in the European Central Bank’s ongoing ‘quantitative easing’ programme.
“What are they trying to achieve?” an exasperated Anastasiades asked of EDEK’s proposal.
“Whose interests are being served by this endless stalling, apart from big borrowers?”
EDEK has asked for the plenum be pushed back from April 17 to one or two days later, citing the risk of “circumstantial or ‘technical’ majorities”, and demanding that the government ensures that no loans by Cypriots can be sold to Turkish companies – but falling short of proposing a way this can be achieved.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou also weighed in on Wednesday, noting that the April 17 deadline for the suspension of foreclosures was chosen by DIKO and supported by EDEK, precisely because that was when the insolvency vote was expected.
“On the one hand we weep for depositors who lost their money, and on the other we reject everything – this is hypocrisy,” he said.
The row even took to Twitter, where ruling DISY’s spokesman and deputy responded rather undiplomatically to a tweet by Omirou, which argued that it is “reasonable and proper that the House plenum on insolvency be held without the risk of distorting the body’s true wishes”.
“In the end, are some just seeking to perpetuate uncertainty and instability so that they can fish in muddy waters?” Prodromou asked, ostensibly echoing Anastasiades’ “political party gains” point.
Omirou hit back at Anastasiades’ outburst via Twitter, arguing that there has been no effort to ‘postpone’ the session as no date had been officially set.
“A date will be set in line with constitutional provisions,” he posted.