With the aim of strengthening participatory democracy, the government on Tuesday announced an initiative to create a system for e-petitions in which citizens can become involved the decision making process.
“With the collection of 8,000 signatures, citizens will have the right to ask the government to formulate legislation and policies in areas of their interest,” Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides told a news conference.
The request must gather the necessary report within five months. If it does so, the government is obliged to examine the proposal and inform the interest group of its positions within three months.
Petrides said that the bill for the creation of the initiative had been sent to the Legal Service on Monday for vetting.
“With the approval of the bill [by parliament], the initiative will be immediately applicable.”
He said that the current disillusionment with state institutions means it was important to take the initiative and promote policies aimed at improving participatory democracy, “a more direct democracy”, where citizens’ voices would be heard and where they were more involved in the decision-making process.
This also promotes transparency and accountability of the state, he said, adding that e-petitions had been a long-standing demand of NGOs and civil movements.
The general principle would be that signatures were collected from the public on issues that concern them, which could then be used to press state institutions on the whys and wherefores.
Petrides said such initiatives were already being implemented in the EU, the US and other countries.
Acceptance of a request will be done in two stages.
First, the interested group of citizens must set up a seven-member committee to file the request.
If it fulfils all the criteria, legal and other, the group will be asked to gather 100 signatures in one month endorsing their request.
Initiatives that garner the necessary support will be conveyed to the relevant authority, which would be obliged to examine it.
The authority will decide on the actions that need to be taken regarding the initiative and must always justify its decision.
If the decision is to go ahead, the petition will be posted on the Internet for the public to vote.
To participate, people must be Cypriot or other EU nationals living in Cyprus who are over 18 and are registered on the electoral roll.