Coalition builds for regional elections

Exclusive: Likud, Labor and Kadima MKs decide to join forces to change the Knesset electoral system.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 6, 2007 23:42
1 minute read.
ophir paz pines stoned 298

paz pines stoned 298 . (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A group of Likud, Labor and Kadima MKs who normally disagree on most issues decided this week to join forces to promote a proposal to change the electoral system and allow direct regional elections for a portion of the Knesset. Israel is one of the few countries in the world where none of its parliament members are elected directly to represent regions. The MKs vowed to change that by passing a bill that would require 30 to 60 MKs out of 120 to be selected regionally, while the rest would continue to be elected according to the current system of voting for party lists. The MKs who will push for the change include Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), Likud MKs Gideon Sa'ar and Michael Eitan and surprisingly, Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines. Paz-Pines opposed regional elections in Israel for many years. But he changed his mind recently and decided to push for Israel to adopt the German system of electing half the parliament by party and half regionally. "I was against regional elections because I thought the country was too small for them," Paz-Pines said. "But the country has grown to seven million people and the time has come. The German system has proven itself as the world's best. The public is too disconnected from their representatives. The will to change the Israeli reality is genuine." Paz-Pines said he would work to pass the proposal in the Law Committee, the Knesset plenum and in his party's institutions. He said he would promote the initiative as an alternative to the electoral reforms backed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. The Law Committee is expected to vote on direct regional elections in October or November. A Jerusalem Post poll of Law Committee members found that five were in favor and nine were opposed. Opposition to the idea comes mainly from MKs representing minorities, who are concerned that such a move would hurt their sector. "I'm against it, because I know they would divide the country in a way that would ensure that there wouldn't be an Arab MK," United Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi said.


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