Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Israel raises electoral threshold in order to bloc Arab parties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset, Oct. 16, 2013.
The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has voted on Tuesday to raise the threshold for gaining a seat in the parliament to 3,25%. The bill got 67 votes, all of them from the coalition parties. Members of the opposition parties had left the rostrum in protest.
Previously parties needed only two percent (three seats) in order to crack the minimum threshold  and that means that the new law in practice is going to work against the Arab parties specifically. If the law had been in effect during the last elections for the Knesset, none of these three parties - Hadash (leftist socialist) Balad (nationalist) or United List/Ta'am (general) would have gained a seat.
The other key clause of the electoral reform bill, which was a key demand of Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party during coalition negotiations, mandates that the government cannot exceed 18 ministers and four deputy ministers. The new law also does away with the "minister without portfolio" title. And on top of that the new law makes it more difficult for the apposition to challenge the sitting government with a no confidence vote. It requires that the opposition is only allowed to do so after it formed an alternative government and appointed an alternate prime minister.
 Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday denounced the opposition as a group of "whiners, post-Zionists, and terrorist representatives" in response to its decision to boycott the Knesset vote on the bill.
The  new law did not come alone. Its sponsor, the member of the Likud faction David Rotem, presented it as part of a package deal of three laws, the two other ones being a law that extends the duty to serve in the army to the haredi (strictly orthodox) community, and the other prescribing a referendum before any part of Israel's territory can be relinquished in the framework of a peace deal.
The site YNet reported that the opposition decide to boycott the vote after it learned that the members of the coalition partners had been instructed to vote en bloc in favour of all three of the proposed new laws.      

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