The supreme court’s decision to reject Aglandjia municipality’s appeal over the local government reform calls into question institutional independence, the Nicosia local authority said on Wednesday.

Aglandjia municipality said the supreme court neglected to apply previous jurisprudence it has established according to which the time limit starts from the publication of the law. Instead, it unanimously rejected the appeal, filed in May last year, saying it was past the 30-day window after the bill passed by parliament in March 2022.

This shows the reform proceeded on the basis of interests other than the benefit of the local governments, the municipality declared.

“This is an unprecedented decision that gives the impression that it has a political and not a legal background and which could potentially lead the country down dangerous paths in the future.

“The decision opens up a huge debate on the manner and criteria on the basis of which justice is administered in our country… calling into question the independence of the institutions,” Aglandjia said.

The local authority issued the announcement after studying the recent decision that rejected their appeal.

Although the Supreme Court’s decision is respected, “it can only be surprising and deeply disappointing,” the municipality said.

“It is truly inconceivable that the municipality’s appeal should be deemed out of time when the same Plenary of the Supreme Court has established in its previous decisions that the 30-day time limit for purposes of Article 139 of the Constitution begins with the publication of the law in the official gazette,” the statement said.

The case was filed within this limit.

Furthermore, Article 82 of the Constitution stipulates that laws come into force from their publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic. In this case, the municipality said, there was still pending consideration by parliament of the president’s referral, which could have changed the text of the law and the reform.

It added that it will work constructively on the issue of local government reform, as it has “strong opinions on the way the controversial reform bill was formulated and the interests that prevailed”.

The reform sees the number of municipalities slimmed down to 20 by merging 30 existing municipalities and 63 communities. The new arrangement will see Nicosia district with five municipalities, Limassol with four, Larnaca with five, Paphos with four, and Famagusta with two.

This number was decided despite experts’ recommendation for 14 municipalities and a proposal by interior minister for the creation of 17 local authorities.

Aglandjia is to be incorporated into a larger Nicosia municipality with Ayios Dometios and Engomi. However, over 75 per cent of Aglandjia residents wish to become part of a separate Athalassa municipality, clustered with Geri and Latsia. This move gained the support of Akel, Edek, Depa, the Green party and Elam.

“But this was not enough,” the municipality said, noting how it has been supporting the position that the community has geographical and economic links with Geri and Latsia.