2007 Israeli Non-Resolution: An electoral reform proposal

The President’s panel on political reform (The Megidor Committee) is expected today to make a formal proposal that Israel’s current single national-district system be replaced with a two-tier system. Under the proposal, half the 120 seats would be elected from seventeen regional districts. The districts would be based on “administrative districts created by the minister of interior,” according to the JPost, and would have magnitudes ranging from two to five (based on population).

There would be a single vote, and the voters’ regional-tier votes would be aggregated to generate a party vote for the national tier, in which there would be a threshold of 2.5% or a representative elected in at least three regions. (The threshold currently used in the single national district is 2%). Notwithstanding these threshold provisions, the article states that “a mechanism will be created to modify the aggregate of votes a party has won overall in the regional elections, even if it did not win enough in any single region to elect a representative.” (Does that make sense to anyone?)

From this overview, it is not clear to me what the allocation method would be in these regional districts (though the implication is it is not list PR), nor is the ultimate process for linking the tiers clear (but by implication it is not fully compensatory). Some simulations referred to in a Haaretz story further imply that the overall effect of the proposal would be a substantial reduction in proportionality: The simulations “that the system was likely to substantially sap the power of intermediate-sized parties as well as small ones.”

The panel also recommends some changes to the process of government formation (JPost), most notably that if the leading party should win at least 35 seats, it would automatically be given the first chance to form a government. If no party won 35 seats, the current practice would continue, under which the President designates as formateur the party leader he deems most likely to be able to form a government. MKs appointed to the cabinet would have to resign their Knesset seats.

Under the Megidor Committee proposal, the system would remain parliamentary (no direct executive election, no extraordinary majority for no-confidence votes). Thus the provisions on executive formation are far less drastic than those in some previously discussed proposals, which were quasi-presidential or even quasi-authoritarian.

I would not place a high probability on this proposal being of sufficiently broad appeal to resolve the long deadlock on institutional reform.

In any event, albeit a bit late: Sylvester Sameach!

I have discussed other Israeli electoral-system and executive-formation reform proposals here in the past:

0 thoughts on “2007 Israeli Non-Resolution: An electoral reform proposal

  1. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

  2. Why doesn’t Israel consider the Single Transferable Vote electoral system? It uses multi-member districts and allows voters to choose candidates and not parties. The preferential voting nature of STV allows vote pooling allowing like parties and candidates to form aliances. The STV system practiced in Ireland is nice because it elects politicians in small multi-member districts of 3, 4, 5. Israel could also look at Malta where it uses STV with a district magnitude of 5. STV maintains a good balance of proportionality and representation.

    It is the electoral system that is half-way between the pure single district List PR that Israel and the Netherlands uses, and the multiple single member plurality districts of FPTP that India and the U.S uses.

  3. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

  4. A report refers to the German-style model as still alive:

    “MKs Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) and Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) have joined forces to push for the adoption of the German political system, whereby half the 120-member parliament is elected by the current Israeli system of proportional representation of political parties and half by direct regional elections.”

    But with regional magnitudes ranging from two to five, and assuming some kind of PR for the lower tier (resulting in an Austrian-style version of MMP?), this is potentially an exciting model for the rest of the world. Many places find 50% “list” a hard sell, which is why the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly cut it to 30%, barely enough, but too high for many voters because it made local districts larger. But if some of the local districts are multi-member (in Ontario that could be the case for two-thirds of the local deputies, leaving only one-third from rural and northern single-seat districts), then a compensatory upper-tier in the range of 15% to 20% would be enough for full proportionality.

    This kind of hybrid would be very appealing, as outlined here, if only it had the credibility of being in actual use somewhere.

  5. There are lots of two-tier list systems, such as Austria’s.* I would consider it rather severe conceptual stretching to put these in the MMP category, unless ‘MMP’ has become nothing but a synonym for ‘two-tier PR.’ (And, if some Israelis are calling that proposal ‘the German political system,’ I guess it has become a synonym. Much as one often reads that any system with an elected president and a premier is ‘the French political system.’)

    * As I am sure Wilf knows.

  6. I love conceptual stretching. Less strenuous than an actual workout.

    Consider a two-tier PR system with a lower tier of two MPs per district. Now look at how German MMP works with 50% list, and 97% dual candidacies. The average district has two MPs, one directly elected, one elected on the list, both with constituency offices, both having run locally last time, and both planning to run locally again. Few can tell, or care, which one is the directly elected one. They are different systems in their technical detail, but to the voter they are different in name only. Except the two-tier version might be a bit better, in that it guarantees the voter a choice of representatives if he or she wants to go to one.

    But the hybrid I want has a lower tier of one-third single-member districts, two-thirds multi-member. What do you call it? It’s still a mixed compensatory system, the term used in Quebec rather than using MMP.

    Some reformers in British Columbia proposed STV with a small second compensatory tier. A two-tier PR system, but it’s not parallel, it’s compensatory. And the MPs have different mandates, so it’s mixed. What do you call it? It looks mixed compensatory to me, just with a transferable ballot in the lower tier.

    But if you want to restrict the term MMP to the classic German model, what about Baden-Wurttemberg? The compensatory MPs are not elected province-wide or region-wide from provincial or regional lists. Their number is calculated region-wide, but their identity is determined by the number of votes local voters gave them. They have a “second mandate” to represent the local district. Is it really a system of different mandates, a mixed system?

    Are we stretched yet?

  7. Wilf, I do not find the definition that difficult. “Mixed-member” if one tier is nominal (candidates win on votes cast for them by name only) and one is list (seats determined by votes cast for the party collectively, regardless of how the individuals are elected to fill those seats).

    It is MMP if, and only if, the list seats are allocated in a compensatory manner over some two-tier allocation region (which need not be jurisdiction-wide).

    It may not be the “best” definition, but it allows one to draw fairly clear lines.

    By that definition, the STV+ idea briefly floated in BC would have been a form of MMP. As for your system of 2-seat districts, I rather like it, and as long as the 2-seat districts are allocated by SNTV or STV or any other nominal formula, and the party seats are compensatory, it would be MMP. No stretching necessary (though I wholeheartedly endorse your preference ranking on various kinds of stretching!)

  8. Okay, classify this:

    You have a small provincial upper-tier with seats determined by votes cast for the party, on a compensatory basis.

    For the lower tier, in the rural one-third you have single-seat districts. But in the urban two-thirds you have multi-seat districts ranging in size from three MPPs to 22. They are elected by flexible-list: voters can cast a nominal vote but do not have to, they can vote for the candidates as ranked in the party’s local list if they wish. In the three-seaters voters will mostly cast nominal votes. In the 22-seater, less so. Just as well, since the upper-tier is fairly small, with no temporary excess seats (“overhangs”), so the proportionality of the 22-seater and an eight-seater and a seven-seater will help create proportional results.

    The lower-tier is nominal if necessary, but not necessarily nominal. So what do you call the system?

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