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Cyprus

Supreme court undermines face-saving response to Enosis vote

Former attorney-general Costas Clerides

The supreme court upheld on Monday the state’s argument that a provision in a law passed by parliament last April mandating the education ministry to consult with the House education committee over bank holidays and commemorations was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers.

On the face of it, the law gave the executive the decision-making power, but Attorney-General Costas Clerides argued that a specific clause actually compromised the separation of powers imposed by the constitution.

The contested clause stipulates the education ministry would be tasked with decision-making over school holidays and in-class commemorations “following consultation with” the House education committee.

It was passed into law as a face-saving move after MPs in February voted to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the January 1950 Enosis (Union with Greece) referendum, in which 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots voiced their preference for the island to be annexed to Greece.

Tabled by far-right party Elam, it prompted outrage within the Turkish Cypriot community with the leader Mustafa Akinci, withdrawing from the reunification talks until “the mistake is corrected”.

Disy tabled the proposal which stipulated that decision-making power should lie with the education ministry. Passed into law, it served to restart the talks at the time.

But Clerides questioned why parliament should have a decisive role on executive powers through consultation saying “this is a right it does not have because it does not belong to it.”

The law gives parliament an indirect – yet clear – role in a matter that concerns executive powers, Clerides added and instead of solving a problem parliament itself created, it chose to completely intervene in executive powers through the contested bill.

The majority of the supreme court plenum ruled that the law can be published, or come into force, after the offending provision was removed.

The differing judges argued that the entire bill was unconstitutional and not just the provision.

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