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Top court’s decision to vacate MP seat could cause institutional clash

The supreme court

The newly elected head of the Bar Association suggested Friday that a decision by the supreme court to vacate a parliamentary seat the previous day could create problems and clashes between institutions.

Christos Clerides said the court, in its capacity as electoral court, raised for the first time the issue of constitutionality of constitutional amendments.

For the fourth time on Thursday — one as supreme and three as electoral court, the island’s top court overthrew a decision to give a seat in parliament to Solidarity party’s Giorgos Papadopoulos.

“An aspect of the case that has not been discussed in depth concerns the new supreme court view that even in the case of constitutional amendments, there could be an issue of constitutionality of the amendment itself,” Clerides said.

Papadopoulos had been affirmed in October 2019 after parliament passed a bill providing that when a seat is given up or not claimed before affirmation, it can be filled by a party runner-up in the same way it is done when a seat is vacated.

It was the last effort by parliament to settle an issue that started soon after the 2016 elections when the head of the party, Eleni Theocharous, left the seat she had just won, but before being sworn in as Limassol MP.

The seat went to the party’s runner up, Papadopoulos, who received 767 votes against Theocharous’ 3,788.

But since Theocharous gave up the seat before her official affirmation so that she would 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 2017 a proposal by then House president Demetris Syllouris, allowing seats vacated before an elected MP has been sworn in to go to the next in line of the party was voted into law, but the supreme court later declared it unconstitutional, reasoning that since Theocharous was never sworn in, the seat never belonged to Solidarity to begin with.

Lawmakers then amended the constitution to address the gap concerning the event a parliamentary seat is vacated or not claimed before affirmation.

The seat went to Papadopoulos, but the decision was cancelled by the supreme court after a year, arguing it could not be retroactive. The law stands, the court said, but only as regards cases that arise from now on.

Clerides said the issue was not the retroactivity cited by the court but the wider viewpoint of the decision that constitutional amendments must be part of a framework that is in line with the constitution’s philosophy.

“This is a new dogma drafted by the supreme court for the first time and it will create many problems in my opinion, which could lead to clashes between institutions,” he said.

To date, he added, parliament was of the view that it had every right to amend the constitution. But Thursday’s decision raised the issue of the supreme court reviewing the amendments from a constitutional point of view.

Papadopoulos, who held the seat on and off for about three years, said he was considering taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. He told private Alpha television that he would certainly be a candidate in May’s elections.



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