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Our View: Crucial local government reform dead in the water

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Akel, Diko and Edek, have devised a way of maintaining the status quo by making the proposed reform subject to referendums

The proposed reform of local government has been dealt a deathly blow by the opposition parties Akel, Diko and Edek, which have devised a way of maintaining the status quo – making the proposed reform subject referendums. The parties also changed the government bills envisaging the creation of 17 (a compromise on the original proposal of 14), increasing the number to 20.

Presenting the decision taken by the House interior committee on Monday, the president, Akel deputy Eleni Mavrou, said: “Akel’s proposal for the holding of referendums in December 2023 on the scenarios of merging municipalities and communities, was adopted. For us, the holding of referendums is a matter of philosophy. Substantive reforms are not carried out with decrees, but through dialogue with society.”

Mavrou said the parties would have to persuade local societies that the merging of municipalities would improve the quality of life of residents and enhance the development prospects of towns. Why would three years be needed to persuade people to accept the reform that all parties believe would improve residents’ quality of life? And will it be put to a referendum if there are no doubts about the benefits?

We suspect it is because neither Akel nor its fellow travelers want reform to take place and have come up with the idea of referendums to prevent it from happening without taking the responsibility. Blocking reform would be the democratic decision of the public rather than an act of sabotage by the political forces of reaction.

Was Mavrou being serious when she said that mayors, municipal and community councils as well as political parties would have to start a dialogue with citizens informing them about the benefits of the reform. Which mayors and councilors will be doing this? Those that have vehemently opposed the reforms and have been fighting against the merging of their municipality? Why would a mayor and councilors vote themselves out of jobs?

What happens if five municipalities vote against merging in the referendum? Will we end up with 25 municipalities? This would mean the reform of local government would be back at square one. Is Akel’s philosophy on a few thousand people, a very small minority, thwarting reform of an unsustainable system because they want to hold on to their power?

It is on these people Akel will rely to thwart the reform, because Akel, Diko and Edek want as many municipal council seats and mayorships as possible to distribute among their followers. This is the reason why we ended up with 30 municipalities and it is the reason the parties will now use the referendums to maintain this number.

 

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