President Nicos Anastasiades has not signed a newly-passed law on paid paternity leave for unmarried fathers, sending it back to the House primarily on constitutional grounds while opposition sees more reasons behind it.
The government says the law could not be signed because it was incompatible with the Constitution, according to deputy government spokesperson Klelia Vasiliou.
“The issue of sending back the law arose from its provisions which are contradictory and incompatible with Articles 80.2 and 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus,” Vasiliou said in a statement.
“Sending back a law is basically the common practice in cases where provisions are deemed to be unconstitutional,” she added.
Law had troubled history in the House
Last month, members of the House passed the law extending paternity leave to unmarried fathers, essentially amending legislation from last year that gave paid leave to married dads.
The bill was filled with many challenges for MPs who took part in a heated debate. The draft even ended up in the Supreme Court to resolve questions about cost, with ruling party Disy arguing that the additional cost of €5 million was unconstitutional as it was not included in the state budget.
President Anastasiades also gave another reason, according to media reports, citing his concern that state services would be overwhelmed if they had to examine each case to determine whether unmarried fathers were eligible, essentially trying to figure out if they were living together as married couples.
Opposition cries foul
But opposition on the left, led by AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma, cried foul over the bill’s failure to be signed.
Koukouma said this was “preposterous” citing the fact that state services already make social welfare payments to couples who are declared as cohabitants.
“Of course social services are accepting this, and besides, otherwise they would need to pay the couples separately on an individual basis and this would require a bigger budget,” Koukouma said.
But Vasiliou stood firm on the constitutional aspect of the law, which is the official position of the administration.
“The executive branch is the only branch that can submit proposals which formulate general policy, exactly as it is provided for in the Constitution, in order to avoid fiscal budget deviations,” Vasiliou said.
The spokesperson added that the President’s Cabinet had put together a number of social benefits, beyond paternity leave (for married fathers) which was passed last year.
Left opposition blames conservatism
Koukouma accused the government of shooting down the law due to a “neo-conservatism” because she said it involved coming to terms with “modern types of cohabitation” and accused Disy of ignoring repeated calls from the opposition to address the issue of extending paid paternity leave to unmarried fathers.
The amendment passed in May with 25 votes in favour from Akel, Edek, Solidarity, ELAM, with 15 against from Disy and nine abstentions from Diko.