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23 July, 2024
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Tackling vulgarity and impunity in politics

MP's behavior exposes the urgent need for accountability reforms



By Andreas Hadjikyriakos

MP Andreas Themistocleous' recent display of vulgarity is just one example of a more significant issue within politics, and unfortunately, it won't be the last. His inappropriate behavior is not unique, and many politicians continue to act without consequence. This goes against the principles of democracy, which should include accountability for elected officials.

Democracy allows anyone to enter public life and run for office, ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens. However, it should also entail mechanisms to hold elected officials in check. Without proper accountability, we are left with an unchecked exercise of power, as we currently witness. The notion that the people reward or punish through their vote is an oversimplification that fails to address the deeper problem.

Students face consequences for repetitive problematic behavior, such as downgraded conduct grades or even failing a year due to unexcused absences.

While voters share some responsibility for repeatedly electing individuals like Themistocleous, it is not their job to keep tabs on elected officials. The political system itself bears the responsibility for allowing impunity to persist. In the field of education, students face consequences for repetitive problematic behavior, such as downgraded conduct grades or even failing a year due to unexcused absences. In contrast, an MP who fails to show up in the House for years faces no repercussions and continues to receive their regular salary.

It is high time to address this issue within our political system and ensure that elected officials are held accountable for their actions. Impunity should not be the norm, and democracy demands a more responsible and transparent approach to governance.

In order to address the lack of control and punishment for elected officials during their term, it may be necessary to consider implementing minimal restrictions on entering the political arena. Introducing some basic qualifications to be eligible for candidacy could bring about a certain level of rationalization.

Currently, an ordinary citizen seeking employment as an official in the Ministry of the Interior (first appointment, A8 scale post) must hold a university degree or equivalent qualification, and possess a strong command of Greek and English, French, or German. Similarly, a Forestry Officer in the Forestry Department (scale A5) must hold a diploma from the Cyprus Forestry College or an equivalent qualification, while also demonstrating integrity, responsibility, initiative, and cheerfulness (though this qualification seems to be absent in the Ministry of Interior), and a good knowledge of Greek and English.

However, when running for MP, the requirements are notably minimal. The only prerequisites are being 21 years of age (with no upper limit), being a citizen of the Republic of Cyprus, not having been convicted of an offense of dishonor or moral turpitude, not being disqualified for election due to an electoral offense, and not suffering from a mental illness that would hinder the performance of parliamentary duties. No academic degree, not even a high school diploma, nor proficiency in a foreign language is required, regardless of whether the elected official will engage in international conferences during their term.

Let's examine the qualification of not suffering from any mental illness that would impede the performance of duties. How do we verify this? The truth is, we don't because candidates do not undergo any examination. They are simply approved by the party. This is in stark contrast to an ordinary citizen aspiring to become a police officer, for instance. In order to don the uniform, they must pass a psychometric test that assesses cognitive abilities and personality traits. The cognitive competence test evaluates the candidate's knowledge and skills relevant to the profession. In contrast, the personality test aims to determine their suitability for employment in the police force based on behavioral characteristics.

The vulgarity exhibited by Themistocles is an extreme symptom of a severely ailing political system plagued by impunity. The constitution and laws of the state, gradually developed since 1960, have granted our politicians an unprecedented level of privileges over ordinary citizens, devoid of any moral restraints.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  workplace  |  education

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