It’s time to introduce a 10% electoral threshold

I used to be a passionate advocate for proportional representation with a low electoral threshold. I thought that it was the fairest electoral system.  I mean the proportion of votes a political party receives equals the proportion of seats that same political party gets in parliament. You can’t beat that!

Theoretically, after every election, pragmatic coalition governments are formed that accurately reflect the will of the people. Of course they’re only likely to take action on issues of broad national consensus. Controversial items get tabled, and I’ll be the first to admit, are usually never dealt with. Yet in most situations that’s perfectly alright. There’s only one problem: it’s not working these days in Israel. From 1988 through 2014, the electoral threshold has been raised a total of three times from 1% to 3.25%. I believe the time has come to raise it again from 3.25% to 10%.

A third Israeli election cycle has just finished, and already a fourth is on the horizon. Albert Einstein said that “the definition of insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

It’s time to do something different.

Israeli politics has historically been defined by four groups (right, left, haredi, and arab). What is needed is to ensure that only these four blocks are represented in the Israeli parliament. Raising the electoral threshold to 10% would force all of the smaller parties into one final merger with the larger parties during the next electoral cycle and would leave us with likud, blue and white, a haredi party (united torah judaism + shas), and the joint list. Yamina would go with likud. Labor-gesher-meretz would go with blue and white. And Liberman’s yisrael beytenu would finally need to make a decision with regards to where it stands.

A 10% electoral threshold would also make it much more difficult for a new centrist political party to emerge every election cycle. Yes there will be growing pains, but political parties are no strangers to demonstating pragmatism and versatility.

One thing is certain – The barrier to entry into the Israeli political arena should be higher. I call upon the newly elected representatives from likud, blue and white, a united haredi party, and the joint list to shatter this electoral stalemate and support a revised Israeli governance law introducing a 10% electoral threshold.

About the Author
Freeman Poritz is currently traveling long-term and observing Israel from afar.
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