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Cyprus

Party leaders wade into vacant seat row

MEP Eleni Theocharous

MEP Eleni Theocharous on Tuesday appeared to shoot herself in the foot by implying that the seat she won in the European Parliament in 2014, running on the Disy ticket, was hers rather than the party’s.

In an impassioned letter – made public – addressed to Disy chief Averof Neophytou, Theocharous said she agreed with the principle that seats in a legislature belong to the party rather than to the individual.

But in her very next sentence she said that in her case there are extenuating circumstances.

“I do possess the political integrity (and you are well aware of this) that I would be willing to return to you the seat [in the European Parliament],” Theocharous said.

She added: “But I reiterate: the seat I hold in the European Parliament, it is not you who gave it to me.

“On the night of the elections, you personally admitted to me that ‘we did not manage to get rid of you’. This was in front of witnesses.”

Effectively, Theocharous is arguing that she got elected as MEP not thanks to Disy’s support but in spite of it. She claims that behind the scenes the Disy establishment sought to undermine her candidacy all along, primarily because of her views on the Cyprus issue.

She further accused Neophytou and Disy’s leadership of employing “revanchist tactics” against her – an allusion to her having left Disy.

Mere months before the 2016 legislative elections, Theocharous launched a splinter party, Solidarity, in opposition to president Nicos Anastasiades’ approach to the Cyprus issue but did not give up her MEP seat despite no longer belonging to the party that had voted her in.

Neophytou accused Theocharous of a double standard:
“On the one hand she claims that seats belong to the parties, and on the other hand that Disy’s seat in the European Parliament belongs to her.”

He also brushed off Theocharous’ allegations that Disy was motivated by vengeance, pointing out that it was Disy who helped elect Solidarity member Demetris Syllouris as House president in 2016.

The spat concerns the vacated seat in the Cyprus parliament in the wake of the 2016 legislative elections, a result of Theocharous declining to be sworn in. Rather, she held onto her seat in the European Parliament.

The seat in the Cyprus parliament then went by default to Georgios Papadopoulos, Solidarity’s runner-up candidate.

The law however, does not allow a candidate – in this case Theocharous – to turn down a seat before being sworn in, which was why the runner-up’s swearing in was later declared null and void by a tribunal.

After the court ruled that Papadopoulos was not entitled to the seat, the Solidarity Party drafted a law, backed by most parties, allowing him to be sworn in again.

This law, however, was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court.

As a result, a legal and political mess has emerged over what to do with the still-vacated seat.
Disy argues that a by-election should be held.

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