THERE seems to be no end to the farcical goings-on initiated by our legislature which betrays its recklessness and irresponsibility with alarming regularity. It was inevitable that its ill-conceived plan to keep shops closed on Sundays would backfire, but it was nothing less than we could expect from a legislature which last year approved the foreclosures bill and then passed a law suspending its implementation; before that it had passed a series of laws that were unconstitutional to limit the scope of the law.
And now Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou has exposed the slapdash way in which deputies deal with legislation. Yesterday she issued another decree allowing Sunday opening until November 30, because the law approved last week by the legislature put an end to this ministerial power on May 15. As the minister explained, the law passed by the House last week would be referred to the Supreme Court because there were serious doubts about its constitutionality and the government did not want all the shops to be kept closed on Sunday until the Court issued a decision which could take months.
The attorney-general had advised that the minister was entitled to issue a decree on shopping hours. If the Supreme Court rules that the law passed by the opposition parties was constitutional the decree would be null and void and the law which allows Sunday opening in some parts of the country would be enforced. Deputies did not care whether their law was unconstitutional, a reflection of the low regard they have for the rule of law.
In fact, AKEL had the nerve to criticise the government for going against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the House, by referring the law to the Supreme Court. In other words it was perfectly acceptable to enforce unconstitutional laws as long as the majority of the political parties supported it. For DIKO as well, the passing of constitutional laws was irrelevant; it attacked the government yesterday for ignoring the wishes of the legislature for acting arbitrarily. It is just as well it does because our political parties rarely act responsibly or sensibly.
The absurd law they approved last week was drafted at the behest of the small shops’ association POVEK, which claimed its members were losing business because supermarkets were open of Sunday. They ignored the interests of the consumers and the risk that thousands of jobs would be lost at a time of record unemployment. Their only concern was to satisfy POVEK which Emilianidou, wrongly, tried to appease by announcing the government would subsidise the wage of an extra employee that a small shop hired in order to compete.
The government is also guilty of populism, but at least in the case of Sunday opening it acted decisively to save jobs and preserve a practice that benefits the whole economy.