By Angelos Anastasiou
Government minority partner EVROKO, which has not voted for a single bill required by Cyprus’ bailout agreement in the last 12 months, should decide whether it wants to be in or out of the government, and that goes for Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis, too, DISY leader Averof Neophytou said on Monday.
Responding to journalists’ questions during a news conference on Monday, Neophytou referred to Kouyialis, who is EVROKO’s second in command, but, while he votes in favour of government bills at cabinet, his party votes against them in parliament.
“I don’t want to be unfair; at first, EVROKO supported government bills and voted for them in the House,” Neophytou said.
“It’s only in the last 12 months that it has adopted this stance. You can’t be in government, and vote against its bills. DISY also has its disagreements with the government, but not over issues that could destabilise the country. Yes, of course there is an issue with EVROKO – and its minister, too.”
Earlier, Neophytou had claimed that one reason he took the lead on raising the electoral threshold for parliamentary entry from 1.8 to 5 per cent – it settled on a compromise 3.6 per cent – was that small parties had lost the measure of their strength, blackmailing the larger parties into diluting prerequisites of the bailout programme and jeopardising economic stability.
“It’s no secret that one party has not voted for a memorandum bill for 12 months,” Neophytou said, referring to EVROKO.
In its response, the junior government coalition partner opted for a cautious defence.
“A cabinet reshuffle is the exclusive privilege of the President, and no one else’s,” the party said in a statement.
“Our refusal to support some bills is no different to that of DISY, which has also opposed important government bills. Our policies are driven solely by our responsibility to the country and the public.”
In a short speech prior to taking questions, DISY’s leader said that international powers are showing a keen interest in the ongoing peace process in Cyprus, and asked opposition parties to refrain comment until a full picture has emerged.
“We ask political parties for patience and support,” he said.
“We will have ample time to judge the results. International players [such as US Foreign Secretary John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov] do not come to Cyprus for holidays – they come to convey the message that they are interested in regional stability.”
He noted that the party is open to further reform of electoral law with the introduction of horizontal voting, but defended the bill he penned raising the electoral threshold to 3.6 per cent, which passed the House comfortably last week.
“We are ready to vote for horizontal voting even in January, if it garners sufficient support,” he said.
“But stability is of paramount importance. Look at other countries under a bailout programme – they change governments every six months,” he noted, referring to prolonged political instability in Greece.
“Such a political system be damned.”
Once more, Neophytou declined comment on MEP Eleni Theocharous’ departure from DISY.
“As a party, we are open to anyone who wants to join us,” he said with a smile.
“In the same way, we are open to anyone who wants to go through the exit door.”
On rumours of assuming the role of behind-the-scenes puppet-master in parliament, he once again cited the need for national unity.
“National unity is a national imperative,” he said.
“When the government is a parliamentary minority, what is required is bridge-building and striking a balance between diverging views. That’s all I do.”