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With one eye on the job, the other on elections, MPs pass 80 bills

Photo: CNA

DURING Thursday’s often turbulent plenary the House passed some 80 items of legislation before disbanding ahead of next month’s legislative elections.

The raft of legislations compacted into a single day hot issues grabbing the headlines, ranging from the spate of corruption scandals recently uncovered, privatisation of state assets, and transparency in public life.

MPs surprised pundits after eventually deciding to put to the vote two key bills which they had earlier in the day agreed to postpone.

The first was a bill banning contractors from bidding for public tenders. It passed with 36 votes for, none against and 19 abstentions, as no party dared oppose outright legislation seen as cracking down on graft and corruption.

Contractors culpable of misconduct or malfeasance are barred from tendering for public contracts for a period of up to five years.

Where kickbacks are concerned, a contractor may be blacklisted even if company cadres admit to such shady dealings, without any court ruling, for example in depositions to police.

Before the show of hands, AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou launched into a tirade against Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos, calling him a “gossip peddler.”

“Mr Phedonos was instrumental in unravelling the waste management scam in Paphos, but he does not have the right to smear reputations with unsubstantiated allegations, with maybes,” Kyprianou said.

“We must be careful not to devolve into village gossips,” he added.

Kyprianou was alluding to allegations of conflict of interest levelled earlier in the day by Phedonos against AKEL MP Aristos Damianou.

The second item making it to the House floor, despite initial indications it would not, related to a law offsetting loans granted to buyers of bonds issued by Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank before the 2013 banking crisis.

The bill passed also passed by majority, amid pleas by ruling DISY chief Averof Neophytou that it would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional subsequently.

It is estimated that as a result of the offsetting exercise, if it happens, Bank of Cyprus could take a hit of about €180m.

Meanwhile opposition parties pushed through an item prohibiting privatisation of state telecoms CyTA and power company EAC until the end of 2017.

The bill was passed with 32 votes in favour – AKEL, EDEK, DIKO, Green Party, and the Citizens Alliance. DISY’s 20 MPs and EVROKO’s one voted against, and DIKO MP Athina Kyriakidou abstained.

DISY’s Neophytou had requested postponement of the vote until June but the rest of the parties insisted on discussing the matter.

And this despite the government having withdrawn bills to privatise CyTA and pledging not to denationalise the EAC.

“A number of bills would not have been passed today were it not for the upcoming elections,” Neophytou remarked, evidently hinting at populist and vote-grabbing tactics from some of his colleagues.

Also going through were a bundle of legislative items on disclosure of the source of funds of government and state officials, as well as high-ranking government employees.

Lawmakers additionally voted through a government bill allowing people with arrears on their social insurance payments to make arrangements to pay their dues in instalments.

Under a last-minute amendment, the repayment period was extended from a maximum of 48 monthly instalments to 60 instalments. The measure is designed primarily to stop people being prosecuted and going to jail over petty sums owed to the Social Insurance Fund.

And a proposal authored by DIKO leader and MP Nicholas Papadopoulos, providing for the participation of ‘bailed-in’ depositors on the board of directors of the affected bank, passed with 33 votes for and 21 against.

Under the bill, in the event of a bail-in, the affected depositors acquire the right of representation (20 per cent) on a bank’s board.

The provision applies for a period of five years after the date of a bail-in, irrespective of whether the affected bank has come out of resolution.

Following the all-day session, parliament dissolved and formally set May 22 as the date for the legislative elections.

The first session of the new House will take place on June 2.

Thursday’s plenary was the last for 14 MPs – including House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou – who will not be re-contesting a seat in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

 

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