AS FAR AS absurd ideas go, the one approved by the Union of Municipalities’ extraordinary general meeting, which was discussing the interior ministry’s proposals for the reform of local government on Tuesday would take some beating. After hours of debate, the meeting voted that there should be a referendum in every municipality that would merge with other local authorities.
In other words, the residents of a municipality that would cease to exist will vote to decide if this will happen. It is a bit like asking people whether they would like to live or die? What is the probability the residents of Idalion, Yeroskipou or Ayia Napa would vote for their municipality’s extinction? But the majority of the participants, voted for the referendum proposal submitted by six mayors who would become jobless because they headed municipalities that would cease to exist under the government’s reform.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides had warned in the past that the introduction of a provision for referendums in the government bill for the reform of local government would be guaranteed to prevent the reform as mergers of municipalities were an integral part of the proposed changes. To be fair there were mayors that opposed the idea of a referendum, but they were the minority and the absurdity prevailed.
The only rational, if politically questionable proposal of the three finally put to the vote was made by the mayor of Ypsonas, Pantelis Georgiou. He proposed the holding of a national referendum to see whether the people supported the government’s reform plan. The taxpayer, who picks up the bill so that villages like Sotira, Yeri, Livadhia and Polis should have a municipality, mayor and councillors should also have a say on whether this absurdity should continue. Georgiou’s proposal received just two votes.
It was too rational a proposal for a tier of government that is marked by irrationality and exists primarily to give jobs and political roles to the clientele of the political parties. This is why any village with a population of more than 5,000 people is entitled by law to become a municipality. In any other country an area with such a population would be considered a neighbourhood, at best a community, but never a municipality.
If the interior minister wants to reform local authorities he should give up trying to reason with the mayors in order to build consensus. He needs to persuade Diko to back the reform proposal and pass it through parliament with Disy and Diko votes. Nothing else is needed.