Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades failed to secure lawmakers’ approval for his government’s 2021 budget amid continued fallout over the country’s passport-for-investment program.
A total of 29 lawmakers voted against the budget and 24 in favor, said Parliament Speaker Adamos Adamou. Anastasiades’s ruling center-right Disy party lacks a majority in parliament.
Cyprus ended its so-called golden passport program on Nov. 1, citing longstanding weaknesses and abuses. The Cypriot parliament’s speaker Demetris Syllouris resigned in October, after an Al Jazeera report caught him on video offering to help a fictitious Chinese businessman with a criminal record attain citizenship. Jho Low, a Malaysian linked to the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, was among the beneficiaries of the program offering citizenship to foreign investors.
Opposition lawmakers had demanded that the state auditor office investigate all cases where Cyprus passports were issued under the program. The government declined to do so on advice from the country’s attorney general, who has already appointed a committee to examine the program.
Lawmakers approved stopgap legislation after the budget vote so that the government can make payments in January 2021 to avoid a shut down. Anastasiades’ administration can also resubmit the budget with changes for another vote at a later date.
Cyprus still faces the prospect of a government unable to make most payments from Feb.1, including contributions to the national health system at a time of increased demand due to the coronavirus crisis and debt obligations.