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Our View: Ambelopoulia stunt a clever bit of campaigning?

Attorney-general Costas Clerides

WITH parliamentary elections only five months away – assuming they are not postponed because of the Cyprus talks – parties have already begun the hunt for votes. Efforts to prevent Sunday shopping and the strident opposition to the privatisation of CyTA are greatly influenced by the forthcoming elections. Deputies are also involved in this hunt as individuals because they want to ensure their re-election.

It is in this context we should view the DISY deputy Evgenios Hamboullas’ post on Facebook of a photo of himself at a dining table with a dish of ambelopoulia in front of him. His caption read “Soon in our restaurants; happy holidays”, the implication being that if he was re-elected he would work to have the law banning the trapping and consumption of ambelopoulia changed. In terms of electioneering, it was as crude as it gets, given that he would stand in the Famagusta district, where the bird-trapping takes place. But it had the desired effect.

Hamboullas was in all yesterday’s newspapers and appeared on a host of radio shows to inform us that he was championing a long Cypriot tradition and to urge the government to ignore Brussels’ directives and change the law. Many other countries had challenged EU directives seeking derogations and the dispute was decided in the European Court, he said. It was a clever bit of campaigning, not only showing defiance to foreigners that did not respect our traditions but also offering hope that the law could be repealed.

What was not very clever was promoting himself as a lawmaker who showed utter contempt for his country’s laws. What self-respecting lawmaker could behave in such a thoughtlessly irresponsible manner? He had every right to criticise the ambelopoulia law and he could have taken the initiative to have it changed but to break it was a step too far. Does every deputy who votes against a bill approved by the majority of the legislature have the right to break it for whatever reason? Apart from the ‘vote for me message’ he sent to Famagusta district voters for most people he is a law-breaker.

He was so proud of what he had done he told a radio host yesterday morning that he would happily waive his political immunity if the attorney-general decided to prosecute him. He should be charged even though this might boost his popularity in the Famagusta district, allowing him to pose as a martyr, someone persecuted for his beliefs and adherence to our traditions. This should be of no concern to the AG. Hamboullas not only admitted in public he broke the law, he advertised his transgression and challenged the AG to prosecute him.

The AG must take up the challenge because he cannot allow some electioneering deputy to publicly embarrass him.

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