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:
Proportional representation and capital-centricity (30 Aug., 2006)
The Sacred Cow of Israelâ€™s Electoral System (28 Sept., 2006)
Israel electoral reform proposal (17 Oct., 2006)
The authoritarian bent of the Katsav Commission proposal (20 Oct., 2006)
Israelâ€™s electoral system: Bear those evils we have (6 Dec., 2006)