The government in the Republic of Cyprus faced an unprecedented challenge on Thursday, after failing to pass a 2021 budget in the House, with lawmakers approving stopgap measures to keep making payments for the next couple of months.
DIKO centre party and other opposition parties made good on a promise to reject the 2021 state budget on Thursday, after the administration failed to meet their demands primarily a call for granting the auditor general access to golden passport files.
President Nicos Anastasiades said he was disappointed over the vote, adding his administration would focus on constructive dialogue with other political parties to achieve a positive vote on the budget.
This was the first time ever that the Republic of Cyprus had no approved budget for the upcoming year, essentially blocking the authorization of new development spending for the upcoming year and opening the door to party politics.
But MPs voted for stopgap legislation, with a month-to-month budget approved through February based on expenditures that had been authorized last year.
DIKO says vote was "historic failure"
The head of DIKO, Nicholas Papadopoulos, said the vote on the state budget was a “historic failure” and blamed the government for lack of transparency. The government has been criticized heavily over blocking the audit office from examining cases linked to the country’s disgraced Citizenship by Investment Programme.
“The problem could be solved in 24 hours,” Papadopoulos said on state radio Friday morning, as long as the independent auditor general gains access to the files.
“We have a committee that is investigating the scandal behind closed doors, and the House committee knows nothing about it,” the DIKO leader said.
DISY wants parties to "stick to budget"
Ruling party DYSI chairman Averof Neophytou, who spoke just moments earlier, accused Papadopoulos of blackmailing the government, adding that he would have no issue to discuss a way forward as long as DIKO would “stick to the budget” and not other issues.
Neophytou also slammed opposition saying the auditor general “had 7 years to examine files,” with Papadopoulos refuting the notion saying the auditor general had been trying for one year to get the files.
The problem could be solved in 24 hours as long as an independent auditor general gains access to golden passport files
“Society has condemned this lack of transparency,” Papadopoulos said, adding that findings of a recent probe had yet to be made public but stopped short of accusing officials of covering up the issue.
“People want transparency,” Papadopoulos said responding to criticism over blocking the budget, reiterating his position that the administration “and the coalition of corruption” were responsible.
DYSI maintains the budget is a completely different issue with Neophytou suggesting the government now would need to sit down and figure out a way to pay for the COVID-19 vaccines.
Neophytou said he had a scheduled meeting Friday morning with left AKEL opposition leader Andros Kyprianou to discuss ways forward.
But AKEL MP Yiogors Loucaides, who also was a guest on state radio Friday morning, says DYSI and the government ruled without ever seeking input from his party, pointing out serious challenges over the prospect of further dialogue.
AKEL worried over next steps
Loucaides admitted that some members of the Cabinet had been fair with opposition parties amid the pandemic but limited his praise to Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, adding that the administration did not appreciate economic concerns such as protections foreclosure measures.
The AKEL MP went on to raise questions over whether Neophytou had made promises to other House representatives, including nationalist party ELAM, saying the administration was looking to compromise on other issues in order to seek allies in a state budget give-and-take in the absence of real dialogue.
“How much dirt is there in the passport files that they brought us to this point,” Loucaides said, criticizing the government for keeping a close lid on the investigation.
“Why did they take out a rule calling for publication of an independent probe just before a committee was appointed to investigate,” the AKEL MP added.