October has been set as the deadline for the approval of the government’s reform bills that would rationalise local government and make municipalities economically viable, at least in theory. If the bills are not approved by then, there would be no reform as the campaign for next May’s parliamentary elections would begin. Perhaps there is some technical reason for approval being secured by October instead of by the end of December, after which there would still be five months left for the elections.
Are we to deduce from this that the parties would not be able to act in a responsible and constructive way once there are only six months to go before parliamentary elections? And what is the guarantee they would act constructively in September and October? After Monday’s meeting of the House interior committee, it was reported that all the parties recognised the importance of the reform of local government, but questions were raised if there was enough time to discuss the bills and finalise them considering the legislature would enter its summer recess in July.
Surely, the parties could show a sense of urgency in order to meet the deadlines. Why for instance has the first meeting of the interior committee, to start discussion of the three bills, been scheduled in three weeks’ time? Will the deputies need so long to study the bills? Committee chairperson, Eleni Mavrou plans to set up a sub-committee to deal with the processing of the bills so that in September committee members would have the bills with the amendments of the parties, ready for discussion.
If the parties want to throw a spanner in the works, they could easily do it with the introduction of amendments, as has often been done in the past. For instance, Diko, has said it wants the number of municipalities to be further reduced, something it will be impossible to achieve because all other parties disagree. Will it back the bill with the existing number of municipalities? Akel wants the holding of referenda to approve the mergers of municipalities envisaged by the bills, something that has a high probability of blocking their approval.
So even if the parties show an untypical sense of urgency so that the bills are ready to be forwarded to the plenum for approval, they have plenty of ways preventing the reform from materialising. And it will not matter if there would still be seven months to go before the parliamentary elections. The parties showed that they have their eye on the elections from now, as their irresponsibly destructive treatment of the bills on the state guarantees of bank loans, illustrated.