Loophole on small-government bill draws fire from critics

November 20, 2013 19:25

Knesset Law Committee decided to pass a loophole that would exclude large coalitions from an 18-minister limit.

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Yair Lapid addresses WJC conference in Jerusalem, October 21, 2013

Yair Lapid addresses WJC conference 370. (photo credit: Sam Sokol)

The Knesset Law Committee decided to pass a loophole that would exclude large coalitions from an 18-minister limit, on Wednesday.

This is set to be imposed in an electoral reform bill that will soon pass into law in its final readings in the Knesset plenum.

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The electoral reform bill, sponsored by Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Likud Beytenu) and MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), would prevent prime ministers from appointing more than 18 ministers in addition to themselves.

The loophole added to the bill Tuesday would enable an unlimited number of ministers to be appointed if 70 MKs agree, which would happen in coalitions of at least 70 MKs.

Critics of the bill said the loophole rendered the legislation meaningless, because prime ministers tend to form coalitions of more than 70 MKs following an election in order to ensure that they will stay in power if one coalition partner leaves.

The critics said bloated governments would continue despite the campaign promises of Yesh Atid to limit them in size.

Hoffman’s spokesman defended the bill, saying that it makes it harder to appoint a large cabinet, because it is a Basic Law, and Basic Laws require only 61 MKs to be amended or repealed. Upgrading the minimum votes to 70 could deter a prime minister from taking such a step when there is no emergency, requiring a larger government, that the public would understand.

The committee decided Tuesday to prevent future governments from appointing ministers- without-portfolio.

Governments will have no more than four deputy ministers, according to the bill, which could pass into law as early as next month.

Other issues in the bill have not yet been decided. Including raising the electoral threshold, limiting factions from splitting and changing the current system of no-confidence votes. Coalition MKs want to raise the threshold to four percent, opposition MKs want to keep it at the current two percent.

The coalition wants to pass the electoral reform bill along with one on how to initiate a referendum and legislation that would draft yeshiva students.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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