Is Israel heading for a new electoral system? A new Knesset initiative suggested Monday that a change be instated in the Israeli election system, under which half of all Knesset members will be elected by regional elections.
MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor-Meimad), head of the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee, is behind the new initiative, which is already getting a favorable response from all three major political parties.
The bill suggests that 60 out of the 120 members of Knesset members will be elected in the national, general elections customary today, while 60 others will be elected in regional elections.
The 60 regions in question will be decided on by the Central Elections Committee. Each party will be able to nominate only one of its members for election per region; and the ballots will include both the party and the candidate's name on them.
The electoral threshold suggested will be 2%, and any party winning at least one mandate in any of the regions will be inducted in the Knesset.
A candidate will be able to run for elections both in his region and in the national elections. Should a candidate win both bids, he will be considered as the winner in the regional elections, making way for the next candidate on the party's list in the national ones.
The bill was co-signed by MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), MK Gideon Sa'ar, chairman of the Likud faction and Labor Chairman MK Eitan Cabel (Labor); and should it pass, all three parties stand to gain major political strength, leaving the smaller parties treading behind.
"Israel is in the midst of a crisis of faith between the voting public and its representatives," wrote the three in the bill's brief. "The new system… will subject the members of Knesset's (performance) to greater public scrutiny, before and during their tenure."
Not a game. Voting ballots (Archives: AFP)
MK Pines reiterated the sentiment: "Israel has a strategic crisis of leadership," he told Ynet; "and the way to change that is through changing the way elections are held.
"There is no getting around it," he added. "Most MKs today are chosen by party leaders and religious ones. The new system can attract people who otherwise would shy away from politics, because it will make the parties nominate the best of their best."
MK Ben-Sasson, who heads the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, says the proposed system will decrease the public's indifference to politics, saying it will reinforce the sense of responsibility MKs feel towards their constituents .
MK Sa'ar also believes the new bill may help stop what he called the dangerous alienation the public feels towards politics and politicians: "The novelty here is that members of all three big parties have joined forces and agreed on the main problem the current electoral system faces and its possible solution."
The smaller parties, however, are less than thrilled by the prospect, which – if put in place – may substantially reduce their electoral power.
"The Israeli electoral system is not a game," said MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yahad). "We're barely half the size of a state in the US and they're trying to instate a system appropriate to a country twice the US' size. This is absolutely ridiculous."