Cyprus Mail

December local elections to go ahead, despite municipal reforms

THE chair of the House interior committee, which has begun reviewing government legislation on local administration reform, said on Thursday that it does not yet have before it any formal proposal for postponing or delaying this December’s municipal elections.

Speaking to reporters after the session, committee chairperson Eleni Mavrou (AKEL) said, however, that the committee has received a letter from the interior ministry asking MPs to begin discussing a gradual reduction in the number of municipalities from 30 to 22 over a three-year period.

The 30 municipalities alluded to are located in the government-controlled areas; another nine municipalities in the north are under occupation.

According to Mavrou, the issue of local administration reform is to be discussed on September 13 at a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and the leaders of the political parties.

If any key decisions are reached at that meeting, the committee would take them into account, she added.

Before the committee are currently three government bills, one of which aims to cut administrative costs through a clustering of services on a district level and a reduction in the payroll.

The committee would continue discussing the bills with a view to voting on them in the plenum by the end of November, Mavrou said.

Back in July, 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.

Nicos Nouris, MP with ruling Disy, said on Thursday his party is in favour of postponing this December’s municipal elections, provided there is agreement on the entirety of the reform drive beforehand.

For its part, the Solidary Movement proposes that the elections are held as scheduled in December, but that they apply for only two-and-a-half years (rather than five) and that new municipal elections be held to coincide with the next European parliament elections.

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.

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