Electoral reforms to pass hurdle Wednesday

Likud cautions votes not final, will not be passed as law since legislation can change completely ahead of final readings.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 30, 2013 22:13
2 minute read.
Israeli government at the Knesset, April 22, 2013.

Cabinet standing up Knesset 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The Knesset plenum is expected to pass a series of electoral reforms Wednesday that could have a significant impact on how elections and the parliament are run in the future.

But Likud sources cautioned that Wednesday's votes are not the final readings of the electoral reform bills and therefore will not pass them into law. They said the legislation could be changed completely before their final readings, which will not take place until November at the earliest.

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Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had tried to expedite the bills and pass them into law before the Knesset begins its extended summer recess on Thursday. But opposition MKs protested and filibustered and insisted on proper deliberations, preventing Liberman from having his way.

The legislation is divided into two bills, one that changes Basic Laws that are the fore-runner to a constitution and the other that affects Basic Laws but does not change them. Because legislation changing or affecting Basic Laws require 61 MKs to pass, neither bill will be voted on until Justice Minister Tzipi Livni returns from the United States Wednesday afternoon.

The bill changing the Basic Law would limit the number of ministers to nine, deputy ministers to four and no-confidence motions to once a month. The other bill would make it harder for factions to break up and would raise the electoral threshold from two to four percent.

At a meeting of the Knesset Law Committee on Sunday, MKs in Arab parties complained that if the threshold is raised that high, none of the Arab parties would pass the threshold. Hebrew University political science professor Avraham Diskin warned in the meeting of a massive increase beyond the already problematic seven percent of votes cast in January's election that went to parties that did not pass the threshold.

But Likud officials said there would be plenty of time to re-evaluate whether to raise the threshold and by how much before it comes to a final vote. Between now and then, coalition chairman Yariv Levin will head a committee that will examine whether there is enough support to take such a step.

Ha'aretz reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told opposition MKs Monday night that he is against raising the threshold. Levin, who participated in the meeting, refuted the report.

"He did not say he opposes it," Levin said. "He just said it requires deep examination."


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