If the Knesset calls a second election in 2019, it will cost the government NIS 475 million, a Finance Ministry official said Tuesday.
Speaking to the special legislative committee on the bill to dissolve the Knesset for a final vote, Bayan Wattad of the Finance Ministry’s Budgetary Department said: “The meaning of the bill... is a cost of at least NIS 475m., which requires a budgetary source that does not exist, and we are currently in a deficit.”
“The government must point to a budgetary source for this and it will only come from reducing government activity,” Wattad warned.
Meanwhile, Erez Tsur, chairman of the tech-industry umbrella group Israel Advanced Technology Industries, and director-general Karin Mayer Rubinstein, estimated that the day off of work for an election would cost the economy NIS 2 billion, calling it an “utter waste.”
“Holding additional elections would harm the stability of businesses in Israel and ease of doing business,” Tsur and Mayer Rubinstein said. “The international hi-tech world, which sees Israel as a global leader in the area, will see going to elections as one big farce.”
The special Knesset committee meeting took place the morning after the legislature passed the bill to dissolve itself in a first reading, to prepare the legislation for a final vote set to take place Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to bridge gaps between potential coalition partners Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism over haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF. Netanyahu prefers to call another election than to wait past the deadline to form a coalition, after which President Reuven Rivlin could present Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with the job.
Likud MK Miki Zohar, chairman of the special committee, announced that the election dates under consideration are August 27, September 3, September 10 or October 29. The bill that passed a vote overnight Monday set September 17 as Election Day.
“We’re in a strange and incomprehensible situation, but it’s out of our control,” Zohar lamented. “We’re doing whatever we can to stop the evil decree with no success so far, and it looks like elections are approaching.”
Much of the meeting focused on campaign finance, because parties have yet to pay back the Knesset-backed loans for the election that took place less than two months ago.
MKs asked that payments on their loans from the first 2019 election be delayed until after the second.
The law currently states that a party cannot take out a new loan if they have not paid the previous one.
Parties currently have a total of NIS 62.467m. in debt, with the Likud taking the most (NIS 36m.) and the United Arab List taking the least (NIS 1m.).
Knesset accountant Chaim Avidor warned that the risk to the Knesset from increasing the loans would reach NIS 201m.
MK Ofir Sofer of the Union of Right-Wing Parties suggested that the loan payments be spread over 72 months instead of 36.
Blue and White MK Zvi Hauser said: “If you give those who happened to already take 100% of the available loan [the chance to borrow more] you are giving them an advantage in this election and distorting the result.”