House Of Representatives
The House of Representatives is elected by universal, direct, secret and compulsory vote for a five-year term of office, called a parliamentary term. Elections are general and are held on the same day throughout the state’s territory. They must ensure the free, unhindered and unmitigated expression of the popular will. They are announced by decree of the Minister of the Interior, published in the official Gazette of the Republic and they take place on the second Sunday of the month, which precedes the end of the term of office of the outgoing House. Any issue related to the validity of elections is judged finally and irrevocably by the Supreme Court of the Republic.
The constitution does not provide for a specific electoral system, neither does it specify electoral districts. Relevant regulations are fixed by law adopted by the House. Up until 1979, a majoritarian system was in force, which was initially replaced by a system of qualified proportional representation (law 72/1979) and subsequently by a system close to simple proportional representation (law 11(1)/1996), since the majoritarian system did not ensure representation of the minority and led to unjust and unequal allocation of seats, which did not correspond to parties´ real power.
According to the Electoral Law for general elections purposes, the territory of Cyprus is divided into six electoral districts. Their size and boundaries correspond to those of the state’s six administrative districts. Today, twenty-one out of the fifty-six Greek Cypriot seats are allocated to the district of Nicosia, twelve to Limassol, eleven to Famagusta, five to Larnaca, four to Paphos and three to Kyrenia.
Qualifications for eligibility
A person can be a candidate for election as a Representative if he/she is a citizen of the Republic, has attained the age of twenty-one years, has not been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude or is not disqualified for any electoral offence and is not suffering from a mental disease incapacitating him/her from exercising his/her duties.
Incompatibility of the office of a representative
The office of a Representative is incompatible with that of a Minister, Mayor, member of a municipal council or of a member of the armed or security forces of the Republic, or with any other public or municipal office or position.
Representatives´ duties and rights
Before assuming their duties, Representatives give an affirmation at a public meeting of the House that they will be faithful to and will respect the Constitution and the laws made thereunder and will preserve the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic.
Representatives enjoy certain privileges which relate to their office, i.e.:
a. They are not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in respect of any statement made or vote given by them in the House and
b. They have immunity in that they cannot be arrested or prosecuted without leave of the Supreme Court, so long as they continue to be Representatives. Such leave is not required in the case of an offence punishable with imprisonment for five years or more in case the offender is taken in the act.
Furthermore, so that they can exercise their duties undistracted and without bias, they receive a parliamentary remuneration from the Public Revenue and are entitled to certain tax exemptions, defined by law, which is enacted by Parliament.
President, Clerks and Administrative Clerks of the House
Under the Constitution, the President of the House is elected by the Representatives at the beginning and for the whole period of the term of office of the House of Representatives. In case of temporary absence or pending the filling of a vacancy of the office of the President, the functions thereof are performed by the eldest Representatives unless the Representatives decide otherwise.
After his/her election, the President appoints two Representatives as Clerks and two Representatives as Administrative Clerks of the House. Assisted by the Clerks and Administrative Clerks, the President conducts and coordinates the proceedings of the House and sees to the smooth carrying out of the House deliberations. Moreover, he/she is the Head of the Office of the House and, in cooperation with the Secretary General of the House, coordinates and supervises the performance of its functions.
The President represents the House at events held in and outside the House, sees to its smooth organisation and management and addresses on behalf of the House the President of the Republic and other Officers of the State. He/she also acts for the President of the Republic in the event of the latter’s temporary absence or temporary incapacity to perform his/her duties.
Political party groups
Any political party, which is represented in the House by at least twelve percent of the total number of the Representatives, can form a political party group. Each political party group appoints its parliamentary spokesman and informs the President of the House accordingly.
Representatives of religious groups in the House
The religious groups of the Armenians, the Latins and the Maronites were represented in the Greek Communal Chamber by elected representatives, up until the transfer of the Chamber’s legislative functions to the House of Representatives in March 1965. From 1965 to 1970 each of these three representatives represented their respective group in the House through an extention of their mandate on an annual basis. In 1970 the House enacted the Law on Religious Groups (Representation), which provides for the representation of each religious group in the House by one representative, who is elected among votes of his/her respective group according to the provisions of the electoral law. Ever since then, the three representatives of the religious groups are elected, like Representatives of the House, every five years, they participate in the House Standing Committee on Education, attend plenary meetings of the House and express their views on matters concerning their group without, however, a right to vote. They also enjoy the same rights and privileges (non-liability, immunity, remuneration, tax exemptions) as other Representatives.
Dissolution of the House
The House or Representatives may dissolve itself before the end of its five year term of office by a decision of the Plenary carried by an absolute majority. This decision provides for the date of the holdings of the general election, which cannot be less than thirty days and more than forty days from the date of such decision; it also provides for the date of the first meeting of the newly elected House, which cannot be later than fifteen days after such general election.
The term of office of the House to be elected after dissolution is equal to the unexpired period of the term of office of the dissolved House. However, in case of a decision for dissolution within the last year of the five-year term of office, the newly elected House is considered to be also elected for the subsequent five-years term.