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Haggling over committee chairs ends in compromise (Updated)

Giorgos Lillikas (L) with Averof Neophytou

Haggling between parties over parliamentary committee chairs on Wednesday produced a familiar compromise between ruling DISY and opposition DIKO, and left things unchanged for main opposition AKEL, with two committee chairs still unallocated.

Leaders and representatives of parliamentary parties sat in the same room on Wednesday, in order to hammer out which party would get which of the 16 committee chairs.
At the meeting, it was agreed that the selection committee – tasked with allocating deputies to committees – will comprise three MPs each from AKEL and DISY, two from DIKO, and the House speaker.

Meanwhile, a row between DISY and DIKO over the chair of the House finance committee – chaired by a DIKO deputy for the last 10 years – was predicted by DIKO’s deputy spokesman Athos Antoniades.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, he wrote that “DISY’s insistence on removing DIKO from the chair of the finance committee is a message that DISY wants no cooperation or consensus with opposition parties, and that […] its only concern is the 2018 presidential elections.
“Messages received,” he wrote ominously.

But the spat was averted when the two parties agreed to take turns as committee chair, with DISY leader Averof Neophytou taking over first for two and a half years, before handing it over to DIKO’s nominee Angelos Votsis.

In return, DISY agreed to the same arrangement with the commerce committee, which it had previously chaired, this time with DIKO taking the chair for the first half of the parliamentary term.

The compromise is reminiscent of a creative compromise proposal, ostensibly tabled by President Nicos Anastasiades, for the two biggest parties in parliament – ruling DISY and main opposition AKEL – to split the term of House speaker between them, in order to avoid being forced to elect a deputy from one of the smaller parties. The proposal was declined by AKEL, and DISY ended up reluctantly backing Demetris Syllouris.

The arrangement was more of a compromise for DISY, which had the right of first pick of committee chairs, than for DIKO. This may be not unrelated to DISY’s hopes for a three-way cooperation – between DISY, DIKO, and the Solidarity Movement – to form a parliamentary majority with 30 votes out of a total 56.

In addition to this arrangement, DISY retained the chairs of the education, health, human rights, and legal affairs committees.

AKEL retained the chair of the interior affairs, labour, refugees, agriculture, and environment committees.

In addition to the two half-committee chairs, DIKO got the house watchdog and transport committees, while EDEK retained the chair of the defence committee.

The only pending issue, following Thursday’s meeting, was which party would chair the foreign affairs and ethics committees.

The foreign affairs committee was previously headed by DISY, with the Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas demanding this chair for his party.

Parliamentary parties agreed to reconvene on Thursday morning, with DISY withholding its decision on whether it is prepared to relinquish the foreign affairs committee chair to Lillikas until then.

Smaller parties ELAM, Solidarity, and the Greens, which the rules preclude from claiming committee chairs due to their electoral tallies, were compensated with vice-chairmanships.

Solidarity got second spot in the agriculture committee, the Greens got vice-chairmanships in the ethics and environment committees, while ELAM got number two in the health committee.

Meanwhile, EDEK asked Syllouris to consider the possibility of the establishment of an ad hoc House committee on the Cyprus problem under his presidency, given the “growing speculation on the possibility of a solution […] within 2016 and a possible referendum”. The Solidarity Movement also expressed support for such a move.


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