Israeli “governance” law passed

The official Knesset press release has details of the new law to raise the threshold and make other changes in government formation.

As expected, the threshold is raised to 3.25%. I am pretty sure this is the first time anyone has used a threshold with a quarter percent in it. (Offhand I can’t think of a case that has used half a percent, other than Israel, where the threshold was 1.5% in 1996-99.)

The size of the cabinet will be limited to 18 ministers, and ministers without portfolio are eliminated. “However, the government will be able to appoint additional ministers if at least 70 Knesset members support the move.” The latter is an odd provision in that it gives the opposition a veto over composition of the government–unless, of course, the coalition includes at least 70 MKs.

There are also changes in rules governing splits between elections:

The approved amendment to Basic Law: The Government also eliminates the option permitted by current law that allows seven MKs to split from their faction, even if they do not constitute a third of it. The law states that an MK can leave his faction if it decides to merge with another faction, but that this MK must join a different faction. The party financing budget in this case will only go to a faction with at least two MKs.

Another important change is to make the no-confidence vote constructive. Sometimes the current Israeli provision (enacted with the repeal of direct election of the Prime Minister after 2001) is classified as “constructive”. However, really it is not, because it only mandates that the person named in the motion be given the first chance to form a government. The new measure, according to the press release:

states that an MK seeking a no-confidence vote in the government must propose an alternative government and nominate a prime minister and ministers. The parties seeking a no-confidence vote must also state the guidelines of the proposed alternative government. The new government will take office immediately after the Knesset plenum votes in favor of the no-confidence vote and for the new government in a single vote.

This actually goes even farther, I believe, than existing “constructive” provisions in Germany, Spain, and elsewhere. Those entail the election of a new prime minister on the same motion and vote that removes the incumbent government, but do not require the naming of ministers. I’d like to see a translation of the full provision to be sure that the press release is accurately portraying it, but this seems like a sort of super-constructive vote of no confidence.

The law passed with a 67-0 vote, with opposition members boycotting.

8 thoughts on “Israeli “governance” law passed

  1. I am not really fans of political reform that doesn’t cross the aisle, that doesn’t bode well for either its inherent perception of fairness or its long term stability.

    Maybe my math is wrong, but could the 3.25% threshold just be a fancy way of saying that a party must win 4 or more seats to receive any?

    • Not exactly, as 4 seats is 3.333% of the Knesset, while at the same time, 3.25% of the vote could get you 3 seats, depending on the overall distribution.

      • Depending on the distribution of votes & parties, you could probably get only three seats with as high as 3.75% of the vote.

  2. The Haaretz story quoted in the earlier post on the reform said, “This change will keep parties with fewer than four seats out of the Knesset.”

    So there is at least a perception that the effect will be to prevent groups smaller than 4 seats in the Knesset. However, as JD notes, it is not a guarantee that a party could not clear the threshold but get only 3.

  3. Rerunning the last election with the new threshold, what would the results have been? Would the government have a more comfortable majority with this new threshold? I don’t think that there is any turning back of this threshold increase? Are there any examples of countries with PR that have lowered the threshold for representation? Only the Netherlands and Denmark and maybe other will have an electoral threshold lower than Israel?

    • Countries with a lower threshold include: Greece, Spain (3%), Denmark (2%) South Africa and Namibia (no formal threshold)

  4. Note that Spain’s threshold is district-level, and thus applicable only in a few very high-magnitude districts. There is no nationwide threshold in Spain, and thus parties with around 1% of the vote can (and do) obtain a seat, if their votes are sufficiently concentrated regionally.

  5. My calculation shows the minimum percentage of votes that guarantees a party 4 seats in the Knesset is 3.31%, using D’Hondt method. So a party can theoretically win 3 seats and enter the Knesset, but the difference is only 0.06 percentage point.

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