The authoritarian bent of the Katsav Commission proposal

In a previous thread, we have discussed the Yitsug Shalem electoral system proposed by Israeli President Moshe Katsav’s commission on governance. The proposal is a single-vote mixed-member system with a 75/25 split between the nominal-plurality and compensation tiers. (It is not a list tier, because the proposal has no party list, per se, but rather is based on “best losers.”)

For reasons already discussed in the previous thread (mainly by the propagators), the electoral-system proposal is a bad one for minority representation (despite the claims of the proposal’s principal author).

Here I want to highlight a few other aspects of the proposal that are not specifically matters of the electoral system, but rather of the broader system of governance. They amount to a logically incoherent and broderline authoritarian set of proposals.

The author of the proposal and of the Haaretz overview of it, Aharon Nathan, gives as one of the key advantages of the proposed electoral system its creation of single-member constiutency MKs, “which creates a bond between the MK and his/her constituents, increasing accountability in the process.”

Yet any alleged benefit from constituency linkage and accountability would be meaningful only if it gave the members so elected the ability to dissent from the party line if doing so was in the interest of the constituency. But such dissent is manifestly not the intent of the proposal’s authors.

In order to add to the stability of future governments, the introduction of this new electoral system needs to be accompanied by measures to strengthen the cohesion of political parties in the Knesset and the position of the prime minister.

How to do this? The proposal would force–yes, force–MKs whose parties formed a governing coalition to vote with the government or else forfeit their seats (with a by-election in the case of a constituency MK or replacement by the next-best-loser in the case of a compensatory member).

As if that were not enough, while it would take 61 of 120 votes in the Knesset to confirm a new Prime Minister, “Dismissing him/her should necessitate a majority of, say, 80 or 90 MKs.”

As if that still were not enough, the PM would have the right to appoint anyone to a cabinet position and to dismiss ministers unilaterally.

It is worth noting that the increased independence of the chief executive (stemming mainly from the supermajority requirement for a vote of no confidence) would enhance the incentive of MKs of the governing coalition to dissent from their party line (because doing so would be less likely to put the government itself at risk), and thus would be consistent with the desire for constituency accountablity of individual MKs. Yet the proposal has severe penalties for just such dissent from the party line.

This proposal would greatly enhance central executive authority, without making that executive accountable to the electorate, through popular election.

In previous discussions, I said that I noted that a presidential system would be inappopriate for Israel. This is worse.

Maybe Katsav (whose office is essentially ceremonial) was too distracted to notice his commission had become a rogue.

0 thoughts on “The authoritarian bent of the Katsav Commission proposal

  1. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

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