Liberman to kill clause blocking electoral reform

The veto power clause has prevented electoral reforms from being made despite many efforts over the past decade.

February 10, 2013 15:11
2 minute read.
Liberman at Knesset press conference, February 10, 2013

Liberman at Knesset press conference 370. (photo credit: Edi Yosef)


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The government Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is working on forming will be the first since 1974 to not give automatic veto power to the parties in the coalition on changes in the Basic Laws that are the forerunner to a potential constitution, a source close to Avigdor Liberman revealed Sunday.

The veto power clause has prevented electoral reforms from being made despite many efforts over the past decade. Even when as many as 80 Knesset members supported potential changes in the electoral system, they were blocked by Shas or United Torah Judaism.

At a Knesset press conference with the heads of pro-electoral reform organizations on Sunday, Liberman, No. 2 in Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu, said he would try to reach a consensus on electoral reforms with all the parties that are interested in joining the coalition.

But he acknowledged that the haredi parties might not go along with his plan to pass key electoral reforms in the Knesset’s first month.

“Most parties support such changes, but we cannot force our will on everyone,” Liberman said.

Veteran electoral reform advocates Uriel Reichman and Amnon Rubinstein complained about the veto clause at the press conference and advised Liberman to remove it from the coalition agreement. Shortly afterward, a source close to Liberman revealed that he had agreed and that if he cannot get Shas and UTJ to support electoral reforms, he would take action to ensure the clause would not be part of the coalition agreement so they would not be able to prevent the reforms from advancing.

“It is a perversion of democracy that almost everyone agrees on key changes and one man prevents consensus views from being advanced,” Reichman said.

The most immediate change Liberman intends to make would make it much harder to overthrow the government via noconfidence votes. Such motions, which can now be filed by any opposition faction, would require 65 MKs to come to the Knesset floor. Liberman said that while other reforms would take effect from the next election onward, this change could take effect immediately.

“The games of no-confidence votes erode the strength and the stature of the parliament,” Liberman said. “It is a waste of time to have no-confidence motions that have no chance of passing every week.”

Liberman will also push for raising the electoral threshold from two to at least three percent, automatically making the leader of the largest party prime minister, limiting the cabinet to 18 ministers who would not be Knesset members, and no longer permitting toppling a prime minister by failing to pass the state budget.

The representatives of the proelectoral reform organizations tried to persuade Liberman to also adopt direct, regional elections for part of the Knesset, but he was not expected to accept that advice. He asked the electoral reform advocates to help him persuade other potential coalition partners to reach a consensus on the issue.

“Changing the electoral system is the most critical issue for the new government,” Liberman said.

“There will have to be compromises. As someone who backed a presidential system for years, I am ready to concede and adopt other approaches.”

Reichman and Rubinstein praised Liberman for pushing the issue.

“The public wants a change in the system,” Rubinstein said.

“They want more governability, but the current system prevents changes.”

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