President Nicos Anastasiades has called a meeting with party leaders on Thursday to discuss a new 2021 state budget, as Disy leader Averof Neophytou on Monday continued efforts to secure enough support when it eventually comes up for a vote.

The meeting at the presidential palace is scheduled for 10.15 am on Thursday, just before cabinet meets, with Anastasiades expected to brief party leaders on the changes made to the original budget.

The 2021 budget was rejected on December 17 by 29 votes against to 24 in favour, the first time this has happened since independence in 1960.

Scrambling into action, the government launched a round of consultations with opposition parties in a bid to win enough consensus to tip the balance and has promised to consider proposed amendments.

Edek president Marinos Sizopoulos, whose party potentially holds the deciding votes, met Neophytou on Monday with both leaders voicing cautious optimism talks were in the right direction.

Edek has three seats in parliament and will be cooperating with Citizens’ Alliance, which currently holds a single seat, in the forthcoming House elections in May.

Their four votes would be enough to secure a majority, provided Solidarity, Elam and the Democratic Cooperation which joined Disy in backing the budget last time, do not have a change of heart.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Neophytou, Sizopoulos said consultations with ministers and with the president of Disy aimed at looking at how the budget could help people suffering from the consequences of the economic crises of 2013 and as a result of the pandemic.

“After completing a series of contacts with ministers where we discussed various issues as well as with the governor of the central bank on issues relating to bank foreclosures and non-performing loans, I briefed the president of the Democratic Rally about the specific contacts and we exchanged ideas on how we can help in the drafting of a final text of these proposals in a manner which is positive for the groups of the population facing the biggest social and financial problems,” he said.

Asked whether there was agreement, the Edek leader replied: “We still have some way to go. I can say we are on the right road. But we must wait until the final text of all the proposals is drafted so that the collective organs of our party, possibly of others, to take their final decisions.”

Disy’s Neophytou thanked his Edek counterpart for updating him on his contacts. He said that the worst-case scenario for the public, in view of the pandemic, external dangers and problems in the economy was for the budget to be voted down a second time.

“I welcome the goodwill of friend and president of Edek, Marinos Sizopoulos,” he said, noting that final decisions would be taken by the government. Even though the budget rejected by the House was the most social-orientated budget since independence, Disy would be happy to see it become even more socially sensitive, within the state’s financial capabilities.

“Supporting society must not put financial stability at risk,” he said.

“Within these limits there is room for positive moves. This is what we discussed, and I too say that I am cautiously optimistic regarding the people’s concern as to whether there will be a budget, whether there will be salaries and pensions and social benefits in the coming months, I consider we are on a very good road.”

Neophytou also highlighted the importance of giving Cypriot business access to EU and state guarantees for loans to improve liquidity.

The 2021 budget failed to pass muster in parliament on December 17, primarily because junior opposition Diko – who in previous years had voted in favour – broke ranks and vetoed. Also voting against were Akel, Edek, the Greens, Citizens’ Alliance and independent MP Anna Theologou.

Diko said their action was due to the fact the government refuses to hand over to the auditor-general files concerning the now-defunct citizenship by investment scheme.

Where the budget bill does not pass, the government has 45 days from the day of the vote in parliament to submit an amended bill.