President Nicos Anastasiades has refused to sign off on, and has sent back to parliament, a law expanding the list of public officials needing special permission to be employed in the private sector after they leave public service.
The sticking point, for the president, was the inclusion in the law of retired judges, and the attorney-general and deputy attorney-general.
Parliament passed the law – an amendment updating existing legislation – on November 3, enlarging the list of persons working for the central government or in the broader public sector who by default are prohibited from being employed in the private sector for a period of two years after leaving public service.
Those falling into this category and seeking employment in the public sector before the two years are up, would need special permission.
The idea is to prevent such persons from potentially abusing or gaining a benefit from privileged or confidential information they had access to while in public service.
Under the amendment, the list of persons was expanded to include judges, the attorney-general and the deputy attorney-general, the chief and deputy chief of the National Guard, the Chief Fire Officer, firemen, police officers and commissioned military officers.
But when the law came to the president’s desk, he refused to sign it and sent it back to the House, urging MPs to reconsider.
The president says the law is unconstitutional in relation to judges, and the attorney-general and the deputy attorney-general.
Anastasiades argues that, at the time of their appointment, the officials in question were not bound by these new obligations, which now adversely affect their terms of employment.
“Such a modification of the terms of employment…for active judges, the attorney-general and the deputy attorney-general, cannot be deemed constitutional,” he argues in his referral.
Parliament now has the option to comply with the president’s referral, by removing judges and the AG and deputy AG from the list; or to double down and insist the law stands as passed. In the latter case, the dispute would be settled in the supreme court.