The major issue of Local Government reform has been sidelined for the time being, with parliamentary parties turning their attention to next December's municipal elections.
Elections, which according to the government reform bills should be suspended and at the same time the term of the existing municipal and community councils should be extended by 2.5 years in order to provide the necessary time for the implementation of the reforms that have not yet been voted by the Parliament. DISY started accepting candidacies for the municipal elections last Monday. DIKO also initiated its internal party procedures in view of the municipal elections, followed by AKEL and the other parties. At the same time, letters from organized groups, which are pressuring not to vote as they are on the controversial reform bills, which, as announced by both President Anastasiadis and the competent Minister of Interior, Nikos Nouris, began to reach the competent Parliamentary Interior Committee. will be put on the table with the resumption of the work of the Parliament, next September. The goal is for them to be voted on as soon as possible.
It should be noted that the Local Government reform was included in the Recovery and Sustainability Plan submitted by the Republic to the EU with a horizon of implementation until 2026, from which it aspires to draw European funds amounting to € 968 million. As President Anastasia recently made clear The non-voting of the reform bills of the Local Government and the Public Service will jeopardize the disbursement of the € 968 million corresponding to the Republic from the specific plan prepared in 2020 as an extraordinary and temporary means of financing the Member States with the aim of addressing the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Term of two and a half years
The majority of the parliamentary parties disagree with the suspension of the municipal elections and the simultaneous extension of the term of the existing municipal and community councils for two and a half years. AKEL put on the table the suggestion that the electoral process be conducted normally next December with a reduced, however, two-and-a-half year term for those elected in order to launch all the procedures related to the implementation of the reform in the Local Government. According to information from “P”, the Ministry of Interior does not approach AKEL's proposal negatively. And as we were characteristically told, in order to vote for the reform in the Local Self-Government, which is the desired result for the government, AKEL's proposal has many chances to be transformed into practice. With the competent minister Mr. Nikos Nouris characterizing the existing model of Local Government as “bankrupt”.
In case the proposal for a two and a half year term is adopted, then the next municipal elections will be held in May 2024 at the same time as the European elections. This facilitates the citizens on the one hand and saves several million euros from the state treasury on the other.
New circle of contacts
With the resumption of the work of the Parliament, next September, the Minister of Interior Mr. Nikos Nouris will inaugurate a new round of contacts and consultations with the parties with the aim of passing the reform bills as soon as possible. To this end, he will hold a meeting in Parliament with the new members of the parliamentary Committee on Interior, where the proposal for a two-and-a-half year term of the new municipal and community councils that will emerge from next December's election will be discussed. The reduced term to be implemented will have to be regulated by law.
Nominations in DISY
DISY was the first to open the dance of candidacies. By decision of the party's political bureau, the submission of candidacies by interested party members for the ballots of municipal councilors and school registrars began last Monday. Nominations will be submitted until 30/7/2021 at the provincial offices of the party. In addition, the executive office of DIKO, which met on the 12th of the month, approved the relevant regulations for the procedure to be followed in view of the municipal elections. It was also decided to immediately start a dialogue with the local communities, organized groups and citizens both directly and through the local and provincial committees of the party.
Protests in Parliament
The new deputies of the Committee of Interior received yesterday a letter from the citizens' initiative group for the rescue of the Municipality of Geroskipou in which the government is accused that “due to obsessions and expediencies” does not accept “the constitutional right of the Parliament to make changes in the number of municipalities and in the process of their establishment “. Supporting, among other things, that with the reform bills, the rulers:
- They reserve in the municipalities a tax-collecting role, e.g. A new tax is introduced for the execution of projects, the tax rates of the real estate tax are doubled.
- They interpret the criteria they use for the mergers when they try it, they do not prove through an impartial and scientifically substantiated study the needs for any mergers and they selectively refuse the consensus between local authorities e.g.
Municipality of Geroskipou and eastern Paphos.
“In our humble opinion, if the new Parliament and first and foremost the competent parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs do not bring further changes and improvements to the bills under discussion, what the citizens will eventually” receive “from the Local Government reform will not be the supposedly strong and viable municipalities, but the restriction of democracy, their removal from the decision-making centers, the consolidation of the bureaucracy and the burden of the budgets with increased municipal fees “concludes in its letter the citizens' initiative group for the rescue of Municipality C .