The parliamentary seat Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous has won and chosen to forego in favour of her seat in the European parliament will go to the party’s runner-up candidate Giorgos Papadopoulos, attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Saturday.
Speculation that this might not be permissible by law surfaced on Friday, after daily Politis carried the story of a letter sent by lawyer Charalambos Prountzos to Chief Returning Officer Constantinos Nicolaides, in which he argued that such an arrangement would run counter to the law on parliamentary election.
Prountzos cited a clause in the law, according to which successful candidates may only vacate their seats after they have been sworn in as MPs, in which case the seat goes to the next in line from the same party. But this was not an option for Theocharous, he argued, as the capacity of MEP is incompatible with that of national parliamentarian, meaning she would have to quit her MEP post in order to be sworn in.
Though not explicitly provided for in the law, Prountzos reasoned, it followed that, should Theocharous decline to be sworn in, thus triggering the above process, an alternative procedure that calls for a by-election for the seat she won – and abandoned – within 45 days should be activated.
It appears that Prountzos’ letter, dated May 25th, raised some eyebrows in the government, because the interior ministry issued a statement on Saturday, saying Clerides had been asked to weigh in.
“With regard to this issue, the Interior ministry states the following: after the issue of Mrs Eleni Theocharous’ seat was raised, and specifically whether there should be a by-election since she notified the Chief Returning Officer of her decision to remain in the Europarliament, the Chief Returning Officer duly requested a legal opinion from the attorney-general,” the statement said.
“According to said legal opinion, dated Saturday, May 28, Mrs Eleni Theocharous’ seat in the House of Representatives remains with the Solidarity Movement, going to its runner-up candidate, instead of holding a by-election.”
The statement did not elaborate on the legal reasoning behind Clerides’ decision.