Is the system dummy?

February 16, 2009

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The photograph by Tess Sheflan says it all. No matter which way you comb it, there is not quite enough to go round. The election results of February 2009 have left us in the awkward position of two victors for one crown.

Kadima is the largest party, but leads the smaller ‘bloc’. Likud leads the larger ‘bloc’, but is beginning to find that the closer one looks at it, the seemingly-monolithic right-wing bloc is made up of many opposing magnets.

While experts abound, no one really knows what kind of government will emerge. All we do know is that in the end the voters will not quite get what they voted for. Although key issues may have driven one’s vote, no sophisticated online questionnaire can predict what bizarre compromises and unprincipled deals a party might make when offered a seat in government. A system that gives democratic representation and voice to an astonishingly varied population, may have ended up too representative for its own good.

Minor electoral reforms have come and gone, in search of the grail of governmental stability. We tried voting separately for the Prime Minister, but this encouraged voters to vote for the Prime MInister on national issues, but vote sectorally for their party, leaving a directly elected Prime Minister with no way to govern. We tried raising the threshold of votes required to gain a seat in the Knesset, but in the end we have the same number of parties in the Knesset as before.

Is a major overhaul in order? And if so, how can an unstable ungovernable system, reform itself? It might be a little like looking for one’s spectacles: We need outside help.

Perhaps system-change is an issue the Diaspora might unite over, offering constructive criticism of Israel without taking political sides.

Should the Jewish world fight for a change in Israel’s electoral system?

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