A local government overhaul will go ahead as approved by parliament last month after President Nicos Anastasiades decided not to challenge the law in the supreme court but allow it to stand as amended by the House.
On March 3, and after about a decade of discussions and haggling, parliament passed the legislative package which created 20 municipalities (down from 30) as well as 30 local council clusters. The transition period to full implementation would run through to May 2024.
Anastasiades had initially sent back to parliament the section of the law relating to the creation of Akamas and Polis municipalities following last-minute rearrangements of the communities falling under these two municipalities made by political parties and deviating from the government blueprint as submitted.
That move split the communities of Laona in the Akamas under three jurisdictions, infuriating the affected villages and prompting the government to ask parliament to reconsider what it said was a flawed decision.
But by a majority vote of 29 to 22 on Thursday, parliament rejected the president’s challenge – giving him the option to either accept the law as amended or send the issue to the supreme court, a time-consuming process that would have led to further delay in the much-awaited local government reform.
Speaking to reporters in Larnaca on Friday, Anastasiades said he would not be taking the supreme court route, but suggested MPs will eventually have to reverse the change themselves.
“I fully respect the decision of the House of Representatives. My decision is that I will not be filing a recourse in the supreme court,” he said.
But he added that he nevertheless wanted to warn “those who had committed an injustice against the communities” that at some point they will be called upon to bring the necessary amendments so that local government is served.
One of the last unspoiled areas on the island, Akamas has for years been a battleground between environmentalists anxious to ensure its protection and local communities lobbying for what they call mild development that will create jobs and prevent depopulation.