The House interior committee will decide next week whether the local government elections will take place as planned in December or be postponed, it emerged on Thursday.
The decision by the House interior committee, that convened in the morning, is expected on September 16.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, who attended the meeting, told MPs that under the law the electoral register is set to close on October 2 and there can be no change after that date. Therefore, if parliament decided on the elections taking place, this will have to be announced at least a week before October 2 so that new voters can register.
The House interior committee is considering postponing local elections as parliament ponders local authority reforms that include reducing the number of municipalities.
Nouris said that although the ministry’s proposal in the reform bills is to extend the term of already elected local officials, his ministry is ready to proceed with the elections.
He pointed out, however, that the newly elected officials would serve half a term since the schedule set before the European Commission for the implementation of the local self-government reform is May 2024.
Otherwise, as he said, the reform will be cancelled and this will put at risk the drawing of funds from the Recovery and Resilience Fund.
He also said that his ministry has no objection to the elections being held by May 2024 on the condition that the reform bills in their entirety would have been passed beforehand.
“We cannot accept in any way to lead the people to the elections without passing the bills,” he said, adding that candidates should know in advance that they will be elected by May 2024 and know that their municipality or community after that date will be part of another entity.
He added that if the decision is to hold elections in December, they should be held on December 12, so that in case of a runoff, it will be held on December 19.
The Chairman of the Committee, Akel MP Aristos Damianou, suggested that deputies consult with their parties and that the committee convenes in seven days, in a special session, to make the final decisions on the issue.
Nouris has concluded a round of talks with parties in which he lobbied for a postponement of December’s elections to better implement the reforms that have not yet been approved.
The reform provides for sweeping changes in local authority operation, including cutting the number of municipalities from 30 to 17 and fusing hundreds of communities.
The stated aim of the reform drive is to achieve economies of scale and lower the cost of services.
But several key issues have emerged throughout the process, such as some municipalities not wishing to merge and instead proposing their own plans.
Parties ostensibly support the reform, billing it as necessary, but they disagree on how to roll it out, threatening to scupper the entire project.