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Issue #1629      March 5, 2014

Cypriot parliament blocks bailout sell-off bill

Cypriot MPs blocked a sell-off Bill last week that had been demanded by international lenders as part of the country’s bailout. But the vote threw into doubt whether Cyprus would receive the next batch of cash from the troika creditors.

They had given the government until March 5 to pass the Bill, which was staunchly opposed by several parties including the communist Akel and socialist Edek.

MPs voted 25 in favour, 25 against and five abstained. The tie meant that the legislation was turned down. Parliament will probably be asked to vote on an amended Bill next week, a government MP insisted.

“Privatisation is a necessity,” Averof Neophytou, who leads the ruling right-wing Democratic Rally Party, told state broadcaster CyBC. “I hope that wisdom will prevail in the next few days.”

However, Akel leader Andros Kyprianou told parliament before the vote that his party would never consent to the “sell-off of the nation’s wealth” and denounced the “blackmail” of international lenders.

Mr Kyprianou and Edek MP Giorgos Varnava said the government must renegotiate the Bill and consult opposition parties. The centre-right Democratic Party had suggested that it would support the Bill, but five of its MPs abstained because their party’s proposed amendments safeguarding jobs and benefits at privatised companies had been rejected.

Privatisations were a key component of the €10 billion bailout that Cyprus agreed with other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund last year.

Hundreds of people protested outside Parliament against the Bill, including state electric, telecommunications and port workers, whose companies were slated for privatisation.

Morning Star

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