A BILL lowering the age to stand in parliamentary elections from 25 to 21 is to be tabled by the end of October, MPs heard on Wednesday.
The House finance committee on Wednesday discussed the bill on lowering the age criteria for parliamentary election candidates, which would require a change to the Constitution.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides was asked to attend a meeting by the committee at the beginning of October to discuss the bill since his ministry has pointed out that if the law changes for MPs, the same would apply to government ministers.
The bill is expected to be tabled to the House plenum by the end of next month.
The proposal was tabled by Greens’ leader and MP Giorgos Perdikis.
Committee chair, Disy MP Giorgos Gerogiou, said that according to information they obtained from the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation, in 26 national parliaments across European countries the age threshold 18, while in seven others candidates must be at least 21. In other cases the threshold is 23 or 24, and in four countries it is 25. Two more parliaments have the age set at 40 but this is because they also have senate bodies, Georgiou said.
“These are issues related to the right to elect and be elected and the discussion should be completed and clarified as soon as possible,” he said.
Perdikis said that a change in the legislation a few years ago lowering the age threshold from 25 to 21 for MEPs and local government officials was also his party’s initiative. “But for the MPs, the Constitution needs to be amended by a two-thirds majority,” he said after the committee meeting.
The Greens’ MP said that at least during the first reading of the bill, there was no negative stance on the part of the two major parties “which I think will eventually support the constitutional amendment at the plenary as well.”
He added that there was an observation by the interior ministry that, according to the Constitution, if the criteria age is lowered from 25 to 21 for MPs, it should be the same for ministers.
“To me that is not a problem at all for the president to be able to appoint young men and women at the cabinet,” he said. This, however, is an issue that will be discussed later, he said.
The committee also discussed two bills on constitutional amendments concerning term limits for the president and MPs.
According to Georgiou, the bills provide for restricting the president’s terms to two consecutive, and three consecutive terms for MPs. He added that the bill also refers to the Vice President’s term of office. Under the Constitution, the seat belongs to Turkish Cypriots.
Georgiou said that based on research, the committee carried out, it has become apparent that most countries with presidential system foresee term restrictions on the head of state. This is not the case however for MPs as no country in Europe has introduced such a restriction until now.
He added that globally this phenomenon was rare. In its report, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe recommends limiting the term of office of the head of state to presidential systems and has made no recommendation in favour of introducing such restrictions regarding the term of office of members of parliament, Georgiou said.
The committee will discuss the matter within 15 days in the presence of other invitees in order to conclude the debate and bring the matter before the plenary no later than the end of October, he said.
Akel MP Aristos Damianou, defending the provision on the restriction of the term for MPs, said in response to those arguing that this is something new at European level. “We believe that if we mean modernisation we must make radical moves to give opportunities to younger people to take up public office,” he said. Perdikis too said he was in favour of the proposed changes.