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Cyprus

The booze ban, mandatory voting and other trivia

A relic of a time when the fear of politically-sparked rowdiness was enough to usher in unreasonable measures with little – if any – popular protest, the Cypriot equivalent of the alcohol ban in the United States, colloquially referred to as the Prohibition, lasted almost 20 years, from 1979 to 1997, and comprised three days of mandatory sobriety whenever local or national elections were held.

Article 63 of the Legislative Elections bill, passed in 1979, afforded the Interior Minister the right to shut down all licensed alcohol vendors “for any period at any time before, during, or after voting”, and subjected businessmen that did not comply, to imprisonment of no longer than three months, a fine of up to 50 Cyprus pounds (85 euros), or both.

The law came into effect in the parliamentary elections held in 1981, for which then Interior minister Christodoulos Veniamin decreed that all retailers offering alcohol will remain closed from 10 am Saturday – the day before the election – all through Sunday, and until noon, Monday, in order to avoid clashes between inebriated supporters of different political parties.

Apparently perceived as actually preventing trouble, the measure was utilised in the following six elections – presidential, municipal, legislative, and even a 1986 national referendum – until 1991, when it was announced that alcohol could be freely sold and consumed during election times.

Nonetheless, the ban remained law until 1997, when parliament officially removed article 63.

A similarly outdated provision of the Elections law stipulates that voting is mandatory for all adult citizens, bearing a 200-Cyprus-pound (340 euros) fine.

However, the law has been completely ignored by the authorities for decades.

Archaic bans notwithstanding, Chief Returning Officer Constantinos Nicolaides said on Friday – the official closing day for the election campaign – that on the eve and day of election no political announcements may be published, whether paid or not.

He added that any sort of advertising or the announcement of poll results is also strictly prohibited.

The only exception to the rule regards Saturday’s newspapers, which may only carry news from the previous day.

Meanwhile, some 1,500 unemployed university graduates have been commissioned to work in Sunday’s elections, along with 3,500 civil servants.

The total cost of holding the elections has been estimated at €6 million.

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