As someone who lived the majority of her life as a voter in a presidential system, if there was one thing I have always known about the parliamentary systems, it was, so to speak, their advantage of putting parties in the foreground and candidates behind. So in theory voters make their decision not only according to how they feel regarding one candidate but by looking at a party as a whole group with a set of values.
With this said, last weekend I was a passive listener in a conversation about elections with my boyfriend’s family in which the most repeated names were not the parties’ ones. They were mentioning Lapid and Gantz, not any projects, ideas, or claims made by Yesh Atid and Hamachane Hmamlachti.
When Noy (my partner) intervened pointing out that none of these parties is democratic because they don’t have primaries, the first general reaction was confusion, and the second one was suspicion; could it be that my partner shifted to be a Bibi supporter, just because he mentioned that Netanyahu’s party follows one specific democratic value which the other ones don’t?
Dr. Evan Cohen, a Likud activist, said in our interview with him that his advice for voters would be to try to think who will be the best Prime Minister for this country and just pick his party. That suggestion reminds me a lot of how I used to pick a ballot in all the elections I was part of in my life. It’s simple: you think about who is the best president possible (or the least disastrous), and you choose it. But isn’t this system supposed to work in a different way?
I cannot understand all the parties’ commercials I see on the streets, but the main ones I can show the face of a party leader and then claim that he is the only one who can build a coalition. Many political conversations follow the repeated debate between pro-Netanyahu and Netanyahu opposers. The conversation about the kind of country we want to live in and its structure and set of values is left behind. I mean, if the Israeli public is focusing lately more on names than on parties, is that a failure of the parliamentary system’s main goal, or is it a clue that speaks about the parties’ incapacity to sell their proposals as well as their characters?
I guess this subject will not be solved at this point in the election saga. We will need to deal with it in the future. We are voting in less than four weeks. I still need to speak with many parties and follow their campaigns if possible. I will still focus on the ideas, not on the people. It’s easy because I know no one. I am not attached to faces, behaviors, trust, or mistrust in their characters. And when I enter the polling booth, I will only see the name of a party on every ballot and try to pick the one that represents my ideas. But, can the rest of the Israelis actually do the same? Should they?