Local Government in Cyprus

Author:Angel-Manuel Moreno

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1. Brief historial evolution
1.1. Before independence

The municipality as an institution, in Greek: [c47][c48][c50][c52][c56][c03][c0b][ca3][c3f][cab][cae][cb0][c0f][c03]pl[c11][c03][ca3][c3f][cab][cae][ca8][c0c][c0f] existed in Cyprus during the Ptolemaic Period and the Roman Period.1Cyprus was governed by a General - Governor and the existence of municipalities indicates that towns had a degree of autonomy to decide on various issues of their concern. During the Ottoman occupation (1571 A.D. – 1878 A.D.) and particularly after the reform of 1839 A.D. (tanzimat) and the Emperor’s order of 1856 A.D. (humayun), Cyprus was given some local autonomy. Each of its 16 sub-districts had a local council with basic functions.2

As a result of the British colonisation of Cyprus (1878 A.D. – 1960 A.D.), Law IV/1879 was enacted, allowing the whole island of Cyprus to become a single region, ruled by the High Commissioner.3The most important legislation was Law VI/1882, which provided for the existence and function of municipalities and municipal councils in each town. Also important was Law VIII/1885, which regulated the duties, rights and powers of the municipalities,4 under the control of the British. In this period there were different types of local government units:

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(A) The Municipalities: The previous laws on municipalities were abolished and substituted by the Municipal Corporations Act 26/1930. The six towns of Cyprus were declared urban municipalities and the ten large villages were declared rural municipalities. Each municipality constituted a legal entity consisting of the mayor, deputy mayor, members of the municipal council, and citizens.

(B) The Village Authorities: The village authority consisted of the «Mukhtar» (chairman) and the «Azas» (members), who were elected by the male inhabitants of the village. The Mukhtars Law XV/1891 abolished the electoral system and introduced the appointment system.5

In 1931, the Village Authorities Law was passed, and regulated the appointment and duties of Mukhtars and Azas.

(C) ?Village Health Commissions: In 1936, the Public Health (Villages) Act, Cap. 259 was passed and established a Village Heath Commission in every village where the law applied. The Commission was composed of the «Mukhtar» and the «Azas» from each village.

(D) The Improvement Boards: In 1950, certain villages were declared «improvement areas» by the Act 12/1950, and were later governed by the Villages (Administration and Improvement) Act, Cap. 243. The duties of the board surpassed those of the village authority and included, among others, the power to issue by-laws.6

1.2. Independence an the Constitution

Cyprus became an independent Republic on 1 October 1960, a member of the Council of Europe in 1961, and a member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. During this period, the most important developments concerning local government may be summarised as follows:

1.2.1. Provisions for Separate Municipalities

One of the main issues Cyprus faced following its independence was the separation between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots municipalities, which was addressed and regulated in the Cyprus Constitution.7Article 173 provided

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that separate municipalities would be created in each of the five largest towns of Cyprus. The council of the Greek-Cypriot municipality was to be elected by the Greek-Cypriot voters and the council of the Turkish-Cypriot municipality, by the Turkish-Cypriots. This provision was temporary, subject to review, within four years, by the President and Vice-President of the Republic.

Meanwhile, the Constitution (article 178) declared that a special provision should be made that would allow, as far as possible, proportional representation of the Greek and Turkish communities in the municipalities’ governing bodies. It also made provisions for the separate taxation of the members of each community (article 174), the issuing of permits by the municipalities (article 175), the enactment of laws regarding town planning (article 176), and the competences of the municipalities (article 177).

1.2.2. Inter-communal conflicts

The establishment of separate municipalities aggravated the tension between the two communities existing in the island (Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots). As a result, inter-communal fighting erupted in December 1963, leading the Turkish-Cypriots to regroup in enclaves in certain towns and villages. Moreover, the Turkish-Cypriots abstained from participating in any governmental function, and Turkish-Cypriot who were members of the House of Representatives intentionally did not participate in the House meetings. Since then the buffer zone, known as the «Green Line», divides Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. These events created an unforeseen and emergency situation leading to a constitutional deadlock.

1.2.3. The doctrine of necessity

Faced with these circumstances, the doctrine of necessity was invoked, which gave legitimate power to pass laws to only the Greek-Cypriot members of the House of Representatives, and no participation by the Turkish-Cypriot members. The issue was raised before the Supreme Court of Cyprus in the landmark decision of The Attorney-General of the Republic v. Mustafa Ibrahim and others8, regarding the constitutionality of a law passed by the Greek-Cypriot members of the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court of Cyprus decided that despite the constitutional deadlock, the State prevails and there is a need for proper government.

In 1964, based on the doctrine of necessity, the Municipal Corporations Law, Cap. 240, was re-enacted, making provisions for the municipalities, their

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competences for municipal administration and various other matters. The Villages (Administration and Improvement) Act, Cap. 243 remained in force, as well as the Village Authorities Act of 1931, Cap. 244.

1.3. The Establishment of the Current Laws and proposed legislation

The cornerstones of the institution of local self-government in Cyprus are the Municipalities Act 111/1985 and the Communities Act 86 (I)/1999, which govern and regulate the municipal and community councils’ functions. In the short future, chances are that local self-government will be strengthened by new legislation that will give more powers and competences, now vested in the State, to local authorities. The main aim is to make local self-government capable of meeting the needs of a modern, complex and multi-cultural society. The reform will establish groups of local authorities as legal entities of public law, merge municipalities and communities, and establish district councils, which will form the second tier of local self-government. A new law on local authorities was submitted by the Minister of the Interior to the House of Representatives in February 2011, to be passed and enacted under the name of «The 2011 Local Authorities and Complexes Act». Another new piece of legislation was presented to the House of Representatives to be enacted, and refers to the creation of District Councils, which will form the second-tier of local self-government. With the ratification and enactment of the proposed law still pending, it is worth mentioning the following innovative provisions:

1.3.1. Complexes

One of the fundamental reforms is the establishment of «complexes» by municipalities and/or communities, which will contribute to strengthening and supporting local authorities. The local authorities and the complexes will be legal entities of public law. The creation of complexes is aimed at the proper use of resources and improvement in the quality of services provided to the local population, especially in small communities where there are insufficient resources or staff. Cooperation between municipalities and communities will be promoted, local authorities will operate in a more transparent manner, and the public will be encouraged to participate more in local affairs.

1.3.2. Voting Rights, Participation and Transparency

Another innovation is the granting of the right to vote to any citizen of a third country who has acquired an immigration permit or the status of a long term resident. On the other hand, every council of a local authority or complex

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will encourage and promote the participation of its inhabitants in local affairs as well as search, identify, record and resolve problems in the area. The inhabitants will be provided with information on existing problems and the actions and decisions to be taken for their solution. A council or...

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