By Angelos Anastasiou
Questioning parliament’s right to amend or oppose government bills and regulations by the attorney-general is without precedent, AKEL spokesman Giorgos Loukaides said on Tuesday.
He was commenting on the legislative impasse caused last month, when parliament voted down a government bill liberalising shop opening hours.
The rejection of the bill came a week after the Supreme Court found a legislative proposal voted into law by parliament introducing a system that allowed some shops extended opening hours but limited those of others, unconstitutional, on grounds that shops’ opening hours are a matter for the executive – i.e. the government – to decide, and not parliament.
The House bill had been vetoed by President Nicos Anastasiades and referred to the Supreme Court.
But despite the clear ruling, parliament rejected the government bill, triggering an old law from 2006 to come into effect and prompting the government to ask the Supreme Court to break the stalemate.
“The Anastasiades-DISY government’s authoritarianism, and their sole concern of serving private interests, have caused a new institutional deadlock,” Loukaides said.
“The government’s decision to refer parliament to the Supreme Court inescapably renders the judiciary part of a political problem. Separation of powers must be respected by the government, which often invokes it.”
In addition to the party’s urge to “respect separation of powers”, Loukaides also made a rather nonsensical argument – that the attorney-general may not question the House’s right to vote for or against government bills.
“It is unprecedented for the attorney-general to question parliament’s sovereign right to amend or reject government bills and regulations,” Loukaides argued.
But it was, in fact, the Supreme Court that not only questioned this right, but ruled that it is not even absolute.
“Parliament may introduce general and impersonal laws, and impose legislative regulations in a general and abstract manner,” the highest judicial body had said in its ruling.
“Parliament may not regulate particular and individual cases, and may not exercise executive power or regulatory administrative functions of any kind.”
In response, AKEL raised the point that, if parliamentary consent is not discretionary, such bills should not be referred to the House at all.
But this argument, too, ignored the fact that parliament forced the government’s hand last April, when it voted to strip the Labour minister of her right to regulate shops’ opening hours by ministerial decree.