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Local govt reform ‘on the right track’

Υπουργός Εσωτερικών – Τελετή παρά
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou

Local government reform is “on the right track”, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Wednesday.

Most of the teething problems faced during the transition to Cyprus’ new system of local government will be resolved by the end of June, Ioannou believes. His remarks on the subject came while speaking to Limassol’s interim coordination committee for local government reform.

“There will certainly be difficulties in the beginning, but this is a matter of adaptation,” he said.

Progress is “going well” regarding most of the foreseen issues such as staffing and finding buildings to house various authorities and institutions, he added.

He likened the potential issues faced to those seen when Gesy was first launched, and added, “we are changing culture, we are bringing together different organisations under one roof, but we are here to solve the problems, just as we are solving them right now.”

The government’s “goal” is for everything to be ready on time, he said.

Work is ongoing regarding relocations of the licencing offices of the urban planning department, municipalities, and district administrations, with all three set to be located in the same building in each district from July 1, he continued.

“These are three different cultures which will bring with them all the pending applications, so there will probably be an adjustment period at the beginning. I don’t consider them problems, I consider it a period of adjustment,” he said.

Personnel from his ministry are being “deployed” to work with local government authorities during the transition, he added. “We have ensured that more personnel are deployed than what has been requested of us,” he said.

Those staff will remain with local government authorities for a secondment period of 18 months, before being offered the choice of either remaining with their local authorities or returning to the interior ministry.

Asked regarding the issue of thousands of people allegedly registering to vote at false addresses, he said the matters are being investigated and complaints will be made to the police “if anything objectionable arises”.

The government is considering bringing forward the final date of voter registration for future elections, he added. This will allow authorities more time if such large numbers of objections are filed in the future.

More than 3,500 objections have been submitted regarding the registration of voters for June’s elections, with a total of 20,890 people either registering themselves to vote at new addresses or registering to vote for the first time at addresses deemed suspicious.

This figure is markedly higher than the equivalent in 2016, when 7,248 people registered themselves at new addresses, and 2011, when 9,500 people did the same.

In addition, multiple news outlets have reported that some voters have registered themselves as living in warehouses, cafes, supermarkets, betting shops, bakeries, vacant plots and even in candidates’ houses.

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