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Work begins for selection of candidates in municipal elections

Committee chair Giorgos Lillikas

While the government’s appeal for the postponement of December’s municipal elections remains pending until September, when parliament is back in session, the selection of candidates by parties has begun in earnest.

Last month, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, who is pushing an ambitious reform plan that would radically shake up local administration, proposed that the upcoming elections be pushed back to 2019, to coincide with elections to the European parliament.

This, he argued, would help the government save money spent on separate elections, and allow precious time for debate on the contentious fine-print of local-government reform.

Days later, parliament closed shop for the summer holidays, from which it is scheduled to resume work in September, at which point Hasikos’ proposal will presumably be discussed.

In the meantime, parties proceed with their election strategies as normal.

“We are preparing for the December elections, for five-year terms,” ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou said on Tuesday.

According to Neophytou, DISY has been preparing its ballots for the local-government elections for “several weeks”.

“We are waiting for no one to decide anything,” he added, pointing to “certain parties that believe they are in a strong position and may wish to capitalise on it”.

He was presumably referring to opposition parties like AKEL and DIKO, which have yet to position themselves on Hasikos’ proposal.

On Monday, AKEL’s Nicosia district committee issued a statement calling on members to submit recommendations and views with regard to the occupied municipalities and local authorities.

“Local-government elections are important to local communities and society in general,” the statement said.

The statement, which suggests that AKEL is also gearing up for the election battle, followed speculation that the communist party may collaborate with the Citizens’ Alliance, a self-described ‘centre party’. AKEL has recently accused the alliance of housing far-right members.

Reported secret meetings between AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou and Citizens’ Alliance chief Yiorgos Lillikas were confirmed by both men on Politis radio on Monday, with Lillikas revealing that he has met with other party leaders, too.

Traditionally, local-government elections have been used to test the waters and forge political alliances ahead of the presidential elections in Cyprus, which follow a little more than a year later.

In this case, however, consensus among parties seems to be that such broad-spectrum collaborations will not work, as candidacies present with particularities in each community.

Acknowledging that speculation regarding the 2018 presidential elections could start as early as the autumn, Lillikas denied having discussed the issue with anyone yet.

Kyprianou said the meetings with Lillikas related strictly to the municipal elections, noting that AKEL traditionally makes decisions regarding presidential elections about 10 months before polling day, and has not engaged in discussion with anyone yet.

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