Cabinet approved a bill on Wednesday giving the public the opportunity to promote the introduction of policies and legislation through the collection of electronic signatures.
According to Undersecretary to the President, Constantinos Petrides, the bill on e-petitions “the so-called citizens’ initiative” will be sent to parliament for discussion and to be put to vote.
“It is a form of direct democracy that produces policy directly from citizens themselves without intermediaries. It establishes their right to collect signatures to promote either legislative measures or other forms of measures for the introduction of policies that concern them,” Petrides said.
This can be made with the collection of 8,000 signatures he said. He added that the procedure was based on best practices applicable in other countries.
According to Petrides the demand will be first submitted to an independent committee that will be chaired by the cabinet secretary and will have a lawyer, an academic and two non-governmental organisations.
The independent committee will also examine whether the demand is within the government’s powers and ensure it is not unconstitutional, that it does not violate human rights or Cyprus obligations to the EU.
If all procedures are met the proposal will be posted on the official website of the ‘citizens’ national initiative’ – which will be up and running in March – and has to gather 8,000 e-signatures. If the required number of signatures is collected, the demand will be forwarded to the competent ministries or state services to draft policies, bills or actions.
Petrides said that the state services will be obliged to explain to the public the nature of the policies want to introduce and if these are impossible the reasons behind the decision.
Petrides thanked the groups Freedom – Citizens for Progress and Pride and Transparency Cyprus for their contribution.
“We all worked to build a legal, institutional framework to provide citizens with that extra democracy tool,” Petrides said. This tool, he said, is being used internationally, by the EU, European countries, many American states and other developed countries.