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Hearings for constitution-clashing pre-election laws will take months

Costas Clerides

The full bench of the Supreme Court decided on Monday to reconvene on October 10 to initiate the hearings procedure for 16 bills which President Anastasiades referred to it after refusing to sign them into law.
Most of the bills, passed by parliament on April 14, were found by the attorney-general to include some provisions that clash with the constitution while others were entirely unconstitutional.
Issuing instructions as to the further handling of the referrals, the Supreme Court on Monday gave the attorney-general, representing the state, five weeks to prepare his written pleadings, and seven weeks to the lawyers representing parliament. The attorney-general was also granted an additional two weeks thereafter to respond to the other side’s pleadings, if need be.
“The process may be taking long, but there are procedures which must be kept. There are difficult issues which need to be studied and put in writing,” Attorney-general Costas Clerides later told reporters.
On October 10, the Supreme Court will reconvene, at which date it will set the dates and the order of priority for hearing the referrals.
Opposition parties had especially insisted on passing two bills despite warnings that they were probably unconstitutional.
One provided for offsetting loans with bank bonds, and one for the participation of bailed-in depositors on the lender’s board.
Other items which the president refused to sign off on, include a bill freezing privatisation of state assets until the end of 2017, and a bill mandating certain state officials to disclose their assets and source of funds.
The government camp had criticised opposition parties for pushing through ‘populist’ laws, in a vote-grabbing bid just before the previous parliament disbanded ahead of the legislative elections.
In turn, the opposition countered that several of the contentious bills were drafted by the government and submitted at the last moment, leaving MPs little time to review them properly.

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