Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Long-running 56th seat saga awaits attorney-general’s decision

Giorgos Papadopoulos from the Solidarity Movement

Attorney-general Costas Clerides said Wednesday he was studying a supreme court decision over a contested parliamentary seat so as to provide the state with advice on how to proceed on the saga that has dragged on since the 2016 election forcing parliament to operate with 55 MPs, one short.

The attorney-general told the Cyprus News Agency he would be issuing a legal opinion after he studied the decision, adding that he would not be making any additional public comments on the matter until that time.

On Tuesday, the supreme court ruled as unconstitutional a law passed by opposition parties last year in a bid to fill a parliamentary seat that was vacated following an appeal filed by a ruling Disy candidate shortly after the 2016 elections.

The seat in Limassol was originally won by the Solidarity party.

It was the third time the supreme court has dealt with the issue of the 56th seat as it became known – the first was in its capacity as the electoral court.

Tuesday’s decision said a provision of the law was unconstitutional and was also opposed to the popular mandate.

Clerides said the issue wold probably be resolved if the constitution was amended, adding that the by-election option could also be legally problematic. The hurdle could arise from article 66 of the constitution, which calls for vacancies to be filled by by-election within 45 days from the day it they occurred.

Amending the constitution would require a two-thirds majority in parliament – highly unlikely since Disy, with 18 seats, opposes such an arrangement and favours a by-election.

“There can be no other arrangement,” Disy leader Averof Neophytou said on Wednesday. “Let us hold a by-election. We are obliged to go. The supreme court plenum decided this three times. Parliament cannot appoint MPs.”

Neophytou said the party had nothing against Giorgos Papadopoulos, the Solidarity MP who lost the seat on appeal, but the opposition parties were told three times this violated the popular mandate “and the popular mandate is connected with the law on by-elections.”

The Disy chief challenged opposition parties to agree to a by-election and they could all support Papadopoulos if they wanted him to take the seat despite the legal implications.

Solidarity accused Disy of trying to alter the election result, accusing Neophytou of hypocrisy.

In a statement, the party suggested Neophytou had indirectly demanded an election from the interior ministry while knowing the difficulties.

“The truth is, Disy’s leadership preferred parliament to operate with one MP less “with whatever risks this may entail concerning the validity of its decisions, than Solidarity keeping the seat it had won in the 2016 elections.”

The dispute began shortly after the 2016 elections during which Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous ran for MP while maintaining a position in European Parliament as MEP.

 

After her election as Limassol MP with 3,788 votes, she opted to keep her place as MEP, leaving her seat to the party’s runner-up, Papadopoulos, who received 767 votes. But she did so before the official affirmation so she did not have to give up her seat in the EU parliament.

Former Disy MP Andreas Michaelides filed an appeal on the grounds that he had received 4,734 votes.

In May 2017 the supreme court cancelled Papadopoulos’ election but later House president Demetris Syllouris, who also belongs to Solidarity, tabled a proposal, eventually voted into law, allowing seats vacated before an elected MP has been sworn in to go to the next in line of the party.

That was thrown out by the supreme court and in June 2018 Solidarity tabled a new legislative proposal based on the premise that a by-election would alter the seat distribution of the May 22, 2016 election and violate the people’s mandate. This was the bill the supreme court threw out on Tuesday.

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