Government abolishes compulsory voting

The Council of Ministers approved on Wednesday a bill abolishing compulsory voting in presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections in Cyprus.

In statements after the meeting of the Council, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said that he does not expect the bill to increase abstention, noting that the existing law which stipulates that failure to vote is an offence has been inactive for many years.

The bill must be approved by the parliament. Petrides said that the right to vote has to be just that, a right, not a duty. He noted that “voting is an expression of the citizens will and that one’s will in a democracy must be free and unaltered. “Once it is mandatory then it stops being democratic, he added.

Petrides noted that the bill also aims at harmonising national legislation with that of other EU member states that do not criminalise abstention from voting in elections.

The law has been inactive for many years, as, it is not the intention of the state to prosecute citizens because they do not exercise this right, which must be a right and not an obligation, Petrides said.

As regards voter abstention, he said that it should not be addressed in ways that are inconsistent with democratic principles. Abstention is addressed when the political system itself persuades citizens to participate in the democratic process because they have choices. We do not believe this bill will increase abstention, he noted.

Source: Cyprus News Agency