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Cyprus Republic
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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The political role and the responsibilities of the House

Amendment of the Constitution

One of the most important competences of the House is its right to amend the Constitution, the supreme law of the state, except the basic articles of the Constitution, that is those provisions which determine the form of government as a presidential Republic (with a Greek Cypriot President and a Turkish Cypriot Vice-President), as well as all those provisions ensuring the bicommunal character of the state and the principle of separation of powers. The remaining articles of the Constitution may be amended by a law passed by a majority vote comprising at least two-thirds of the total number of the Greek Cypriot Representatives and two-thirds of the Turkish Cypriot Representatives.

After the events of 1963 and the withdrawal of the fifteen Turkish Cypriot Representatives, the House amended the Constitution, evoking the law of necessity, on eight occasions:

In 1989, responding to the need to modernize family law, the House amended Article 111 of the Constitution by introducing civil marriage and laws governing relations between spouses.

In 1996, adapting to modern facts and perceptions for a more efficient functioning of democratic government, the House proceeded to the amendment of Article 63 of the Constitution extending the right of citizens to vote in general elections to the minimum age of 18 instead of 21, which was provided for in the Constitution until then.

In the same year, the House also amended Article 66.2 of the Constitution, which imposed a by-election when a vacancy occurred in the seat of a Representative, introducing a provision for the vacant seat to be filled by the first runner-up of the same party or party coalition or coalition of independent candidates.

The House amended Articles 47, 118 and 119 of the Constitution in 2002, in order for the Republic of Cyprus to comply with the provisions of the acquis communautaire, ensuring the independence of the Central Bank.

The fifth revision of the Constitution came about as a result of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union and the need for the Republic of Cyprus to respond successfully to its commitments stemming from the accession, as well as to its international commitments. Therefore, the House proceeded in 2006 to amend the Constitution through the addition of a new Article 1A and the amendment of Articles 11, 140, 169 and 179 so as to recognize the supremacy of European Communities and European Union law vis-à-vis the constitutional arrangements of the Republic of Cyprus. The amendment regulates inter alia the arrest and detention of Cypriot citizens for the purpose of extradition on the basis of a European arrest warrant, but only with respect to events that occurred or acts carried out after the date of accession of the Republic to the European Union.

In 2010 the House amended Article 17 of the Constitution so as to grant to the authorities  of the Republic the possibility to intervene during the exercise of the right to communication and subject to preconditions to keep under surveillance certain telephone communications, the aim being the security of the Republic, public safety, the prevention and suppression of crime, as well as the protection of constitutionally safeguarded rights and freedoms of every person.

In 2013 the House amended again Article 11 of the Constitution to enable the Republic of Cyprus to fully comply with its commitments as a member state of the European Union, with regard to the provisions for the European arrest warrant and the procedures of handing over citizens between EU member states. The purpose of the amendment was to lift the restriction on extraditing Cypriot citizens and in addition to make clear that an arrest for extradition purposes, when there is a European arrest warrant, is carried out on the basis of that warrant, without the need to issue a local arrest warrant.

In 2015 the eighth amendment of the Constitution was adopted for the purpose of setting up through a law an Administrative Court, so as to reduce the burden of work of the Supreme Court and facilitate the swift administration of justice. On the basis of the pertinent law, the Administrative Court was granted exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate at the first stage on recourses made which were previously adjudicated on by the Supreme Court, as provided by Article 146 of the Constitution. The law also provides for reinforced jurisdictional powers of the Administrative Court, when a recourse concerns a tax issue or the procedure for international protection.

Enactment  of legislation

In case of war of other public danger threatening the life of the Republic or any part thereof, the Council of Ministers has power, by a decision taken in this respect, to issue a Proclamation of Emergency. The President of the Republic promulgates the Proclamation by publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic unless he/she exercises his/her right of veto within forty-eight hours. For this Proclamation to have legal effect, however, it has to be laid before and be confirmed by the House of Representatives. If the House rejects it, the Proclamation has no legal effect. If the House confirms it, the President of the Republic promulgates this decision of the House forthwith and the country is then in a state of emergency.

The House confirms or rejects a Proclamation of Emergency

In case of war of other public danger threatening the life of the Republic or any part thereof, the Council of Ministers has power, by a decision taken in this respect, to issue a Proclamation of Emergency. The President of the Republic promulgates the Proclamation by publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic unless he/she exercises his/her right of veto within forty-eight hours. For this Proclamation to have legal effect, however, it has to be laid before and be confirmed by the House of Representatives. If the House rejects it, the Proclamation has no legal effect. If the House confirms it, the President of the Republic promulgates this decision of the House forthwith and the country is then in a state of emergency.

Investiture of the President of the Republic

The President of the Republic is invested in his office by the House of Representatives, before which he/she makes the prescribed affirmation of faith to and respect for the Constitution and the laws made thereunder, as well as to the preservation of the independence and the territorial integrity of the Republic during the exercise of his/her duties. For this purpose, the House meets on the date the five years’ period of office of the outgoing President expires and, in the case of a by-election, on the third day from the date of such by-election.

The House moves the procedure for the deposition of the President of the Republic from office on grounds of high treason or incapacity

The House moves the procedure for the prosecution of the President of the Republic for high treason by a relevant resolution, provided such a resolution is entered on the Agenda signed by at least one-fifth of the total number of Representatives and carried by a secret ballot by a majority of at least three-fourths of their total number. After such a resolution is adopted, the Supreme Court decides on whether to prosecute or not the President of the Republic.

The House also moves the procedure for the deposition of the President of the Republic from office on grounds of permanent physical or mental incapacity or of such absence other than temporary as would prevent him/her to perform his/her duties effectively. For the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court for a decision to be taken, the House approves a relevant resolution by a simple majority vote upon the proposal tabled by at least one-fifth of the total number of its Representatives.

Parliamentary scrutiny

Apart from its legislative function, the House exercises parliamentary control, it controls, that is, the Government and its members through various ways and means.

This role is played indirectly through the right the House has to amend or reject in toto the Bills introduced by the executive and mainly the state budget. In addition, the House exercises control over the executive, since the yearly report of the Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman), whose basic mandate is to study citizens’ petitions against any service or official exercising an executive or administrative function, is submitted to the House of Representatives.

The House exercises direct control over the executive power through questions to the competent Ministries and entering matters for debate in Plenary.

Questions submitted by Representatives refer to matters covering the whole spectrum of the country’s social, economic and political life. If a question is not answered by the competent Ministry within thirty days or the answer does not satisfy the Representative who submitted the question, he/she has the right to enter the relevant matter for debate in Plenary.

Matters of a more general or particular interest introduced by Representatives are either debated directly in plenary or referred to parliamentary committees for consideration, whereupon the procedure followed is the same as that for considering draft legislation.

Parliamentary control is also exercised in cases when the House sets up a committee of enquiry for a factual and in-depth consideration of a matter, as well as in cases when, for reasons of urgency and due to the matter’s extreme importance, the House decides to discuss it before adopting its Agenda.

In the exercise of its authority for control, the House does not confine itself solely to enacting legal rules, but it also monitors their implementation, thus accomplishing its mission to the full, in constituting that is the official forum wherein the people’s feelings are expressed and its interests are protected in matters pertaining to the economy, justice, education, public health, security, foreign affairs, etc.

The House influences the formulation of economic and financial policy

In legislating and exercising its authority for control, the House plays an important role in the formulation and reform of each government’s economic and financial policy, to the extent that this is reflected in the state budget. The competences of the House with regard to the state’s economic management are decisive, given that the annual state budget comes under its consideration for approval. Through this process, the House controls, evaluates and approves public expenditure, development plans, the numerical and organizational sufficiency of the civil service, as well as relief plans for refugees and adversely affected persons.

The budget is introduced to the House at least three months before the day of commencement of the financial year (1 January) and is voted by the House before its commencement. If for any reason the Budget has not been adopted by the commencement of the financial year, the House may by resolution authorize the meeting of any expenditure required for the continuance of public services. This resolution’s effect does not exceed one month, i.e. January. Thereafter, if such a requirement still exists, the House may authorize the meeting of the same proportion of expenditure for February, too. The sums so authorized by the House in these cases are called twelfth parts and may not exceed the proportion with respect to such period of the amount voted for the same purpose in the Budget for the preceding year.

Furthermore, if in respect of any financial year it is found that the amount adopted by the House for any purpose is insufficient or that a need has arisen for expenditure, for a purpose for which no amount has been envisaged and included in the annual Budget, a supplementary budget is laid before the House, so that the requirement which has arisen is met.

In addition, the House influences the formulation of each government’s financial policy, since it gives its approval to government guarantees and loans, to the budgets of legal persons under public law and to fees and duties imposed by various authorities and organizations.

The House also approves the final accounts resulting from the implementation of the Budget. Finally, the annual report of the Attorney-General of the Republic is submitted to the House, as well as the six-monthly reports of the Governor of the Central (Issuing) Bank of the Republic.

 


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