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    Our system of government and corruption

    By George Koumoulli


    When Confucius was asked by his disciple Zigong to explain how he envisions a good administration more than 2000 years ago, he said that three things are needed for the government: weapons, food, and trust. If a ruler cannot keep all three, he must first give up arms, and then eat. However, Trust must be preserved as a pupil of the eye to the end, because “without trust, we cannot stand it.” It is a philosophy that is not shared by the politicians of the day, who could never sacrifice food. And when we say “food,” we always take it in its broadest sense — it includes free travel to exotic destinations, deposits in the Seychelles, Panama, etc., no tax, no control, no darkness, no police investigation but no endlessness. In summary, corruption in Cyprus has destroyed trust, as Confucius calls it, which is essential for social cohesion and prosperity.

    What needs to be consolidated is that in order for there to be a relationship of trust between the government or the public sector in general and the public, public accountability is necessary. That is to say, the government must demonstrate its competence, credibility, and honesty in a way that allows the public to judge its credibility in the use of public money and resources and nip in the bud any tendency towards corruption. Unfortunately, in this area, the outgoing Anastasiades government has failed miserably. The mere fact that EUROSTAT “reveals” that 94% of Cypriots are convinced that there is corruption in the institutions, must cause us to be angry. Cynics will suggest that the remaining 6% who disagree are made up of the beneficiaries of corruption.

    One of the main causes of corruption and the collapse of the prestige of institutions and the undermining of the trust of the people is the lack of accountability by those in power, mainly because our system is presidential. Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping pointed out the vulnerabilities of the presidential system long ago: “Americans are praised for their political system, but President says one thing before the election, some when he takes office, another in the middle of his term, and another when he leaves.”

    In view of the corruption plaguing Cyprus, I believe that transforming our political system from presidential to parliamentary would significantly improve public accountability and thus significantly reduce corruption. Of course, I do not have the space to analyze and compare the two systems. I would just like to remind you that the main feature of parliamentarians is the principle that the government should enjoy the confidence of parliament. If it loses it, either in the elections or because parliament withdraws its confidence in the government after a vote of no confidence, then the government must resign. In other words, in a parliamentary system, unlike the presidential one, there is a response in public opinion: The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers must retain the support of the majority of the Parliament in order to remain in office, and therefore they are more responsive to public opinion. A government in a presidential system may be unpopular or, even, popular, but there is no mechanism that forces it to resign. A great example is the government of Anastasiades, which in recent years has been at the nadir of its popularity due to the involvement, not only of the ministers but also of Anastasiades himself, in the infamous case with the “golden” passports, not to mention other scandals, such as free travel to Seychelles. And that’s not all! Eminent columnists and writers described the government as a “gang” and a “mafia” without the slightest reaction – of course!- from any member of the government. However, Anastasiades did not resign, because constitutionally he had the right to serve his entire term, regardless of criticism or popularity. That is to say, he had the luxury of being deaf and not answerable to anyone. But it could not do that in a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are accountable to Parliament and can be removed at any time if they lose the confidence of the majority.

    Another important advantage of the parliamentary system is that it allows for a more efficient legislative process, as legislation can be introduced, debated, and passed more quickly than in a presidential system. In other words, a Member’s productivity is admittedly higher.

    With the above in mind, we should seriously consider changing the Constitution and adopting parliamentarism. There are some faint indications that Tatar will abandon his obsession with two states. If, as we all hope, the talks begin one day, we must propose the transformation of the political system into a parliamentary one, where the role of the President of the Republic is symbolic and ceremonial (such as that of Katerina Sakellaropoulou in Greece). Because the PD will have no political power, it will be much easier to reach an agreement on the rotating presidency.


    *Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of CypriumNews.

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