Primaries bill set for final vote without controversial clause

“Knesset members should represent the interests of the public and not of those who write them checks,” says Coalition chairman.

December 24, 2017 20:42
1 minute read.
The Labor primary election, July 4 2017.

The Labor primary election, July 4 2017.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Knesset Interior Committee voted Sunday to advance to its final readings of committee and coalition chairman David Amsalem’s controversial bill that would provide government funding for candidates in primary elections.

But before advancing the legislation to its final votes in the Knesset plenum next week, the committee decided to remove a clause in the bill that would have provided funding even for those parties that do not hold primaries – to the tune of NIS 50,000 for every mandate they received in the most recent national election.

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The bill would still allow funding for primary candidates if three conditions are met: the party has at least 5,000 members, its party list is mostly democratically elected, and the primaries take place in the sixmonth period before a Knesset election.

If these conditions are met, the candidates would receive funding for all their campaign expenses but would not be allowed to otherwise raise funds.

In the current system, parties receive taxpayer funds for national elections, but candidates fund races in party primaries on their own, taking donations from contributors in Israel and around the world.

Amsalem called the bill one of the most important that would be passed by the current Knesset. He said it would help prevent the influence of tycoons on politicians.

“Knesset members should represent the interests of the public and not of those who write them checks,” Amsalem said.

Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie said she was glad that what she called “the political bribery clause” was removed from the bill but that the legislation still discriminated against new candidates in favor of incumbents.

“This is another example of politicians dealing only with themselves and guaranteeing their place in the next Knesset at a cost of tens of millions of shekels to the taxpayers,” Lavie said.

Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner said the bill would create inequality among Knesset candidates and that a better solution would have been to have the state fund the primaries of the parties in order to encourage them to be more democratic and not to fund the campaigns of individual candidates.

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