Independence Party divided over electoral change

“The need to change the electoral system is not a technical change,” Barak writes in newspaper column.

February 26, 2012 01:26
1 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

A column by Defense Minister Ehud Barak that appeared in Friday’s Israel Hayom Hebrew daily demonstrated that even in his small, five-MK Independence faction there were deep divides over changing the electoral system.

Barak and four political allies broke off from the Labor Party last year due to major disagreements on key issues. While the Independence faction has been more harmonious, its leaders purposely left the issue of changes to the electoral system out of the party platform because they could not agree.

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In the column, Barak blamed the system for the difficulties in drafting haredim (ultra-Orthodox), saying it gave too much power to sectarian politicians, lobbyists and spin doctors. He added that it forced prime ministers to put the agendas of small parties over that of the majority of the population.

“The need to change the electoral system is not a technical change,” Barak wrote. “The current system is the harshest disease that causes all the problems that have been on the public agenda over the past year.”

Barak’s column faced criticism from the head of his own Knesset faction, MK Einat Wilf, who believes the Israeli electoral system is the best in the world.

“I’m working all the time to convince Barak that he is wrong,” Wilf said Saturday night. “There are more and more people against changing the system. The people who want to change it have so many different views that the outcome will be zero, which is good.”

Wilf said she was fairly confident that proponents of changing the system would be able to agree only on raising the two-percent electoral threshold by half a percentage point, although even that change could be vetoed by Shas and United Torah Judaism.

“People are attracted to changing the system because they would like to believe there are easy solutions,” she said.

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