The Knesset voted 65 to 52 Tuesday to advance legislation that would provide government funding for candidates in primary elections.
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.
The bill, sponsored by Likud MK David Amsalem, would 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 six-month period before a Knesset election.
If all these conditions are met, the candidates would receive funding for all their campaign expenses but would not be allowed to otherwise raise funds.
The bill would provide 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.
The opposition lashed out at Amsalem, with Meretz MK Mossi Raz saying that Amsalem was “an asset to the opposition” because his “corrupt bills persuade thousands of people to protest in the streets.”
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) went further, telling the Knesset plenum that the bill was “raiding the public coffers” and that he would vote for it only because he was bound by coalition discipline.
Amsalem responded that the bill would prevent the “political bribery” of campaign contributions and that the bill would separate wealth from government and strengthen democracy.
The bill will now go to Amsalem’s own Interior Committee, which will prepare it for its final readings that would pass it into law.