Nicosia.- by Maria Fili, (CNA) – Newly elected President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou has pledged to work to bring people closer to the political system and regain their trust.
As he noted the Cypriot people expressed their disappointment in the political system in the unprecedented percentage of abstentions (21%) in last month’s parliamentary elections.
Omirou, President of the Movement of Social Democrats EDEK, was elected new President of the House of Representatives on June 2, following the May 22 parliamentary elections. He was elected in the third round of voting at the House plenary, with 28 votes from the MPs of EDEK, the Democratic Rally (DISY) and the European Party and Zacharias Koulias, formerly of the Democratic Party, and now independent.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Omirou said he expects to be briefed on the latest developments on the Cyprus issue, in his capacity as House President, the second highest post in the Republic of Cyprus, stressing the need to expose Turkey’s intransigence through parliamentary fora.
The new Speaker also said he will have a personal involvement in the House preparations for the Cyprus EU Presidency in the second half of 2012 and revealed his intension to travel to Athens next week on his first official visit abroad since his election.
Asked bout his first priority, Omirou said the priority is to see the House committees start producing legislative work and to exercise parliamentary control. “As of next Thursday, the first bills will be tabled, MPs will put forward various issues for discussion and parties will begin to work”.
“The aim is for the House to function smoothly, in harmonious co-existence with the Executive and the Judiciary”, he said, adding that there should be closer cooperation with the Executive, without any interference in the jurisdiction of either authority, in an effort to achieve smooth and absolute operation of the state.
Omirou stressed that he would work along with everybody, irrespective of whether they backed him in his bid to the post of House Speaker, recalling that the President of the House represents all its members. “The House of Representatives reflects society”, he remarked, adding that “the main issue is to ensure the co-existence of different political and ideological perceptions within democratic norms”.
Commenting on the percentage of abstentions during the May elections, Omirou said it is a disease which results from the political system and called on the politicians and the political parties to take note of this “strong message from the Cypriot society”.
During the 22 May elections, the number of abstentions reached 113,282 or 21.32%, an unprecedented development in parliamentary elections.
“We have to act to overcome the crisis of trust of the citizens towards the political system. We have to work to become worthy of the citizens’ trust, our political interventions should yield results and we should work to overcome economic and social problems, especially the grave consequences of the global economic crisis. We should work to overcome meritocracy, stop the violation of the principle of equal treatment of all citizens, combat corruption in public life which irrevocably affects the credibility of the political system. Abstention from voting is a disease, the result of the political system and the citizens should not be blamed for this. The responsibility lies with the political system”, he added.
Asked how he plans to promote solutions on issues such as the House new building, the House legal service and its financial independence, Omirou said that he will tackle all matters at hand but needs time to do so. No hasty decisions should be taken, he pointed out.
“The House of Representatives is very sensitive to the repercussions of the economic crisis on the Cypriot economy. Wherever the House has issues that can wait, they will have to wait because we have an obligation to the Cypriot society, to the Cypriot citizen at these difficult economic times” he said.
Omirou also urged the Executive to accelerate the pace of submitting bills to the House to avoid delays and avoid seeing the House inundated with tens or hundreds of bills for discussion prior to its dissolution or a holiday recess.
Asked how he intends to promote the Cyprus issue through the House of Representatives, Omirou said that he will fulfill his duties and exploit any opportunities to promote on an international level and within the EU the principles of justice for the people of Cyprus and Hellenism at large.
“There is absolutely no problem in having a firm voice at all international parliamentary fora. We will continue with even greater intensity to work towards this direction. The framework is set; it is the Security Council resolutions, decisions of European collective institutions, the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, and the principles of international and European law. We have the unanimous joint statement of September 2009 which reflects the views of all parties as regards to the characteristics a solution should have to be accepted to Cypriot Hellenism”, he stressed.
Speaking on behalf of his party, Omirou talked about “the need for a change in our tactics at the negotiations and a change of strategy in the overall management of the Cyprus issue.” The new House Speaker said “we need to expose and strongly criticize Turkish intransigence so that Turkey will not appear as the outside third party, a good intentioned observer who is calling for a solution.”
He said that “unacceptable concessions need to be withdrawn and the Greek Cypriot side should submit drastically different proposals on the property issue so that the owner should have the sole right on his/her property. Of course, we need to pursue a more active involvement of the EU in efforts to solve the Cyprus issue which should remain within the UN framework”.
Invited to give his view on the current phase of the Cyprus talks, Omirou said that “it has been proven that during the past two and a half years, Turkish intransigence has worsened, the Turkish Cypriot leaderships are under Ankara’s complete control”. Changing strategy is mandatory, he remarked.
Asked what needs to be done to improve the functioning of the House, Omirou said that “we must try to get the House closer to the citizens. To introduce electronic democracy, so that the views of citizens on various bills will be heard and we should have a stronger voice about the cultural life on the island. We will try to further promote what has already started”.
On the House preparations ahead of Cyprus’ EU presidency in 2012, Omirou said that he has been briefed on the preparations and he will have an active involvement in the procedures that need to be followed. “The aim is to organise in the best possible way meetings and events which the Parliament will undertake during the presidency. I have no doubt that the knowledge, experience and the expertise of the staff of the House of Representatives will guarantee the complete success of the events”, he remarked.
Asked if he will strengthen the House cooperation with the Cypriot Euro MPs, Omirou said “I consider the Cypriot Euro MPs members of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus. They are the elected representatives of the Cypriot people to the European Parliament and I believe it is inconceivable not to have a close and frequent communication with them. Yes, our effort will be to achieve a closer, permanent and interactive communication with our Euro MPs”.
Omirou further said he intends to pay his first official visit, in his capacity as Speaker of the House, to Athens. “That’s how it should be since we do not merely have interstate and inter-parliamentary relations with Greece. Greece is a country with which we are bound with strong national and brotherly bonds, therefore the first visit will be to Athens to meet the President of the Hellenic Parliament” and to hold meetings with the state and political leadership.
“The symbolisms are very strong, and the substance of relations even stronger. We are allies in dealing with common national dangers”, he said, adding the visit will take place next week.
Responding to other questions, the House President said he has asked to reduce the number of his staff and the police officers assigned to his office, saying this is in line with efforts for fiscal consolidation.