Cyprus Mail

Bill to suspend local elections withdrawn, new draft limits term

The government on Thursday said it was withdrawing a bill aiming to extend the term of in-situ local officials by two-and-a-half years, which would have effectively postponed the municipal elections of December 18.

Instead, the interior ministry will now be bringing another bill which will limit to two-and-a-half years the term of the local officials to be elected in December, thus allowing the elections to proceed as scheduled.

The new bill was expected to be ready sometime next week, interior minister Socratis Hasikos told MPs.

Local government elections are normally held every five years.

The interior ministry decided to withdraw the initial bill – where the elections would be postponed – once it became apparent that it lacked parliamentary backing and would have been defeated in a vote.

Under the ministry’s latest proposal, mayors, municipal councils and community leaders would serve only half of their five-year term, from December 2016 to mid-2019.

This would roughly coincide with the next European Parliament elections, to be held in May 2019. Organising and holding two elections at the same time would also save the state money, Hasikos said.

The matter relates to legislation in the pipeline introducing wide-ranging reforms to local administration, including slashing the number of municipalities from 30 to 22 inside a three-year period.

It’s understood that most municipalities are in dire financial straits.

The reform legislation is at an advanced stage.

In proposing earlier to effectively scrap this year’s municipal elections, the interior ministry had argued that otherwise it would not make sense to go to full-term elections when halfway through their terms some of the municipalities would be merged with others.

Main opposition Akel said it would consider Hasikos’ latest proposal. Diko indicated that it was positively inclined, while socialists Edek said they were against.

Meanwhile the interior ministry is this Friday scheduled to issue the decrees proclaiming the upcoming local government elections.

MPs asked a representative of the attorney-general’s office whether this would pose a legal problem, given that parliament might subsequently amend the electoral law by instituting two-and-a-half year terms.

The official opined there appeared to be no legal conflict, as decrees proclaiming the elections make no mention of the duration of the terms of office.

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