A House committee in the Republic of Cyprus is discussing the right for private citizens to solicit petition signatures for new legislation, but the initiative may be easier said than done in a small country where people complain about disenfranchisement on the one hand and populism on the other.
According to local media, the House legal affairs committee discussed on Wednesday the issue of petition signatures, with members suggesting either five or eight thousand voters could be enough to bring an issue to parliament for legislation debate.
House committee chairman Nicos Tornaritis, a member of the ruling party DYSI, said an ongoing effort could eventually allow citizens to prompt the Cabinet to bring up an issue or even repeal a previous government decision.
ELAM reminded the committee that three years ago the nationalist party had collected signatures and called on the government to close all checkpoints between north and south on the divided island
Tornaritis pointed to a similar EU process whereby private citizens of member states can form a group and register a law initiative. If they obtain one million signatures, the petition can be submitted to the European Commission which can lead to a public hearing in European Parliament.
But proposing a citizens’ initiative is easier said than done in Cyprus, where voters feel disenfranchised from the political process.
While some parties are said to be in favor of the idea where just 5000 signatures could get an issue registered with parliament, some members also call for caution in order to avoid populism.
A government bill currently being debated calls for 8000 signatures.
ELAM MP Sotiris Ioannou, who is a member on the committee, reminded his colleagues that three years ago his nationalist party had called for a closure of all checkpoints between north and south on the divided island.
Ioannou said the initiative taken by his party, which oversaw the gathering of 20,000 petition signatures from citizens and other organized groups, was ignored by the government.
It is still unclear what criteria were being finalized in the bill but a representative from the innovation deputy ministry said voting would take place electronically.