Political parties on Monday made one last big push at consensus over legislation governing the reform of local government, but major questions still remained like the number of municipalities.
Following a closed-doors session of the House interior affairs committee, chair Aristos Damianou (Akel) said the committee will reconvene again on February 10 merely to rubberstamp what makes it into the final draft of the bills forwarded to the House plenum.
The plenary session vote on the reform will most likely take place on February 24. But passage of the government bills – heavily amended by the parties – is by no means a foregone conclusion, given that any and all remaining differences will come up at the plenary.
A major pending issue is whether referendums should be held, giving residents of municipalities and communities the final say on whether to merge or be absorbed into others.
Damianou said five scenarios are currently on the table: no referendums; one referendum for the entire island; one per district; one for every new municipality created; and one for every existing municipality.
The majority of the parties favour holding plebiscites in one form or another.
Moreover, there is still no agreement on the number of municipalities or communities following their proposed merger and clustering.
According to media reports, last-minute proposals include having two municipalities instead of three in Famagusta district; and four rather than five in Nicosia district.
For his part, Disy MP Nicos Sykas said his party would go the plenum insisting on no more than 17 municipalities.
By contrast, it’s understood that Akel want 20 municipalities; Dipa 14; the Greens propose the creation of an Akamas municipality; while Diko, Elam and Edek will not reveal their final positions until the plenary session.
The government’s blueprint envisages the creation of 17 greater municipalities through mergers of existing ones, plus a fusion of some 300 smaller communities into 33 clusters.
The project’s stated aim is to create economies of scale through a consolidation of municipalities and local communities that can stand on their own feet financially.