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Parliament votes to amend constitution to resolve issue of vacant MP seats

Parliament on Friday voted unanimously to amend the constitution in a bid to resolve the issue of a vacant seat that has been hounding MPs since the last election in 2016.

The 45 present MPs voted in favour of the 24th constitutional amendment, made necessary after the supreme court threw out as unconstitutional, two previous attempts to settle the matter of how a seat should be assigned in the event it is vacated or not claimed, either prior to or after an MP’s affirmation following an election.

The manner would now be decided by an amendment to the electoral law expected to be discussed in two weeks.

The matter arose shortly after the 2016 legislative elections when Eleni Theocharous ran for MP on Solidarity’s ticket while maintaining a position in the 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 Giorgos Papadopoulos, who received 767 votes.

But Theocharous 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.

The supreme court later declared this law unconstitutional, reasoning that since Theocharous was never sworn in, the seat never belonged to Solidarity to begin with.

The constitution initially provided for a by-election in the event a seat was vacated while parliament was in session.

That was changed in the 1990s by parties who scrapped the by-election and stipulated that a vacant seat would be filled by the party’s next in line.

But no provision was made for occasions when the seat is forfeited before the affirmation.

On Monday, the House interior affairs committee is scheduled to discuss amendments to the electoral law aimed at rectifying the matter.

The two amendments, one by ruling Disy and one by Solidarity, provide for two completely different methods.

Disy supports holding a by-election while the other proposal calls for the seat to go to the next in line. The two proposals are expected to be put to the vote in 15 days.

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