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President vows wide reforms for financially-hit Cyprus


Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday that he planned sweeping reforms in a bid to modernise the economically-battered island, including lifting immunity from prosecution for the president and other politicians.

The move by the president, which comes on the back-end of a crippling 10-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout, aims to "assure the citizens of my determination and that of my government to meet the expectations of the society for a new bold start".

The new and unprecedented reforms are expected to be thrashed out by MPs on Tuesday when parliament meets to begin debating the EU-IMF bailout deal.

But it is not known whether a vote will be held on the same day, or prolonged due to debate.

With bank deposits having been targeted and one of the island's main banks, Laiki, having been forced to shut down, the Cypriot government has come under increasing pressure both from the public and from Brussels to do away with what many perceive as political corruption.

Leading politicians and business figures have been accused of taking advantage of their position to protect their assets from a hit on bank deposits imposed by EU-led creditors.

President Anastasiades' family members also faced allegations in some newspaper circles of being part of a string of high-ranking officials to have used privileged government knowledge to transfer millions of euros out of Laiki before the stringent measures were forced on the Cypriot economy.

"Concepts, such as meritocracy, good governance, the liability of politicians, the obligations of the state towards its citizens, which were until recently meaningless declarations, today, due to the consequences of the financial crisis, constitute a national necessity," he said.

The president also hit back at claims within the Eurogroup that he had gone back on his pre-election pledges with regards to rooting out corruption whilst also questioning whether the public wanted a national leader to be "likeable or to take unpleasant but beneficial decisions".

The new measures, claims Anastasiades, aim to make a clean sweep across the political spectrum of the island with a deadline set by the beginning of 2014 and which will, effectively, introduce rules of good governance, combating corruption, collusion and bad practices, promoting meritocracy and egalitarianism, and reforming public administration.

Amendments to the current constitution also include easing restrictions under which a Cypriot president can be prosecuted, including himself, as well as forcing politicians to submit information regarding their income and expenditure and immunity to be eradicated for MPs and other lawmakers.