THE ONGOING dispute between the government and the legislature over Sunday shopping is set to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The Council of Ministers took the decision to apply to the Supreme Court after the legislature had rejected a bill that would have allowed shops to stay open on Sundays. It is a case that the government is almost certain to win as the legislature had clearly overstepped its constitutional powers in blocking the regulations governing shop opening hours that were within the authority of the executive.
Meanwhile, the association representing big retailers decided that its members would open their shops on Sunday, even if the 2006 law, which banned Sunday opening, would have come into effect from the start of year. This is a move that could lead to additional legal action – a shop that would be fined for opening could appeal to the courts against the fine. At worse, the shop would pay the fine as its revenue for the day would more than cover it.
The fight against Sunday opening, is spearheaded by the reactionary forces of AKEL, with rest of the opposition parties jumping on the bandwagon, in the belief there were votes to be won from the owners of small shops that want shops closed. The main argument used by AKEL in defence of violating the constitution was that the government was ignoring the wishes of the majority of the parliamentary parties, the majority of shop-owners and the representatives of the workers.
This is the clever way in which AKEL always imposes its diktats on society. It creates a bloc of interest groups to fight a measure and claims the government was obliged to respect the wishes of the majority. AKEL deputy Andreas Fakondis, for instance, said the government was acting “arbitrarily and dogmatically in order to impose its view through the legal avenue” and had “closed its ears to all the pleas by the parties and shopkeepers. For AKEL, a government exercising its constitutional powers was acting “arbitrarily and dogmatically” and “imposing its view.”
If it listened to those protecting their personal, financial interest (the shop-owners) and those interested in winning votes (parties), who had no mandate from the electorate to take executive decisions, the government, in AKEL’s eyes would have acted more democratically. By citing a bogus consensus, the communists fool people into thinking that they promote democracy and the people’s wishes. Yet the reality is that AKEL wants to impose the wishes of a very specific and small group of people, arbitrarily and dogmatically, on the rest of us.
The overwhelming majority of the population that benefits from Sunday opening (workers who can earn some money and consumers who flood to the shops on Sunday) has not been consulted by AKEL and its fellow travellers. DISY chief Averof Neophytou said, on Tuesday, in response to AKEL accusations that the government and his party were “serving the interest of a few big businessmen”, that “we are serving the interest of 800,000 consumers, whom we believe should have the right to choose.”
One day, AKEL and the rest of the parties might awaken to the reality that we also have consumers in Cyprus.