Momentum building for regional election of MKs

Efforts to initiate direct, regional elections for half the Knesset appeared to die in June '08 when Shas vetoed a Kadima, Likud, Labor bill.

February 15, 2012 03:51
2 minute read.
Knesset building

Knesset building 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Efforts to initiate direct, regional elections for half the Knesset appeared to die in June 2008 when Shas vetoed a bill that was sponsored by senior legislators in Kadima, Likud and Labor.

In unprecedented cooperation between the three largest parties of the time, every minister except one on the Ministerial Committee on Legislation backed the bill, including the committee Chairman, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

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But Shas Minister Meshulam Nahari’s one vote against it was enough to kill the bill, because any coalition partner could block bills that change a Basic Law, the legislation that forms the cornerstone of an eventual constitution.

Four years later, efforts to enact regional elections have been revived. And over the past two weeks have gained new momentum.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin came out strongly in favor of electing part of the Knesset from regional constituencies at a Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) conference at the Knesset on Monday.

“Regional elections are the right way to fix the Knesset without destroying it,” Rivlin told a room full of mayors and city councilmen.

“They would bring balance between local and national government. A Knesset with a regional element would be more stable, more socio-economically sensitive, and would ensure that infrastructure projects and public services would not be pushed aside by diplomatic-security issues.”

Journalist Yair Lapid said changing the political system would be a key issue for his new party. Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz endorsed regional elections after his competition, incumbent Tzipi Livni, did not push the issue since taking over the helm of the party from Ehud Olmert.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan kicked off the new Yesh Sikui movement that calls for direct, regional elections for half the Knesset last Wednesday at its founding conference in Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, the movement received a boost when it was joined by ULAI head Shlomo Bohbut and National Union of Israeli students head Itzik Shmuli.

Direct, regional elections are still extremely unlikely to be enacted in the current Knesset due to the continued opposition of Shas and the control over the Knesset Law Committee by a fierce opponent of regional elections, Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem.

But if momentum continues, it is looking increasingly likely that enacting direct, regional elections for half the Knesset could be near the top of the agenda of the next government.

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