I wrote on my blog (May 1st 2011 ‘Voting Reform’) “pure proportional representation creates a multiplicity of parties that ultimately destabilizes the institution of democracy. It is a foil to corruption or chaos when a plurality of interests is able to work together for the common good however over an extended period of time the chances for this diminish”.
Kadima was the main opposition party to the ruling Likud Coalition in the 18th Knesset, elected in 2009. When everyone expected the government to fall and new elections to be called (in May 2012) Shaul Mofaz shocked and surprised everyone by taking Kadima (the name means ‘Forward’) into the coalition.
Today we have the opportunity to reform the Party system, the Electoral system and the System of governance. It is the only possible justification for forming a Likud – Kadima coalition government.
The Israeli legislative elections in 2009 were the 18th set of parliamentary elections in 60 years. On the face of it this provides a picture of stability because if elections are held every 3 to 4 years it enables a government to present a full legislative programme to the country. But then we bump into statistics that belie this initial impression.
Between 1949 and 2012 there have been 33 separate governing coalitions.
In 1949 the first Knesset had 21 separate parties that contested the election of which 12 parties passed the 1% threshold. In the 2009 election to the Knesset, a record 43 political parties registered but ONLY 33 ran on Election Day (12 parties got in – the threshold was 2%). The protest movement expressed as a political force has always been a means by which dissatisfaction can be bled away without altering the essential power base of the ruling elite. The energies that are spilled out dissipate potentially violent frustration while dispersing any momentum for change. Government becomes the art of holding onto power without actually achieving anything of lasting value.
Arye Carmon (President of the Israel Democracy Institute) stated “the politics of survival led Bibi Netanyahu in 2009 to establish the largest cabinet ever, comprised of 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers.” The current Prime Minister controls 21.6 per cent of the Knesset while his new coalition partner, Kadima, actually has a greater percentage of the votes (22.5%).
Carmon further states that between 1999 and 2009 “MK’s, eager for publicity, flooded the floor of the Knesset with 14,000 private bills, only 6 per cent of which became law”. That is 1,316 bills per year wending their way through committee before being rejected, and 84 per year, passed into law.
The ability of any prime minister to govern effectively has been strangled. In Israel today it is not possible to practice effective government. Significant structural reform of the Knesset institutions is a necessity for survival.
A second house elected by proportional representation and able to submit bills, not including defence, finance and foreign relations, should be created. All parties not represented in the main house would be empowered, via the parliamentary route, to have their voice heard.
It is time to solve Israel’s chaotic and debilitating electoral and parliamentary system of government. The Bibi and Shaul Show will be worth watching if it finally presents Israelis with a system that rewards accountability, encourages stability and enables its elected representatives to present its citizens with a vision for a long term future.