Lieberman to propose bill he knows will fail
Israel Beiteinu using electoral reform legislation as coalition bargaining chip.
By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 18, 2006 01:59
2 minute read.
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman is expected to submit his controversial electoral reform bill for a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, even though it appeared clear that he would not muster a majority, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The bill is a major cornerstone of Lieberman's bid to join the government, but two coalition parties, Labor and Shas, ruled out voting for the bill when it arrives for its preliminary reading Wednesday afternoon. Only the 40 MKs of Kadima and Israel Beiteinu are expected to support it.
"This proposal is not serious," said Shas leader Eli Yishai. "Electoral reform is not a cosmetic change that could be done with the flick of a hand. It's important to initiate steps that will stabilize the political system in Israel and make the government run better, but such a dramatic turnaround must happen in coordination with all the factions, and not in a hurried maneuver that will have to be fixed later."
Both Shas and Labor officials said that Lieberman must either make serious corrections to his bill or consider abandoning it altogether. But Lieberman's spokeswoman said the only changes the party was considering making at this time were "grammatical."
"At this point no major amendments or changes will be considered," she said. "We are still working on trying to muster the support for the vote tomorrow."
Another Israel Beiteinu official explained that the party's leaders know that the bill won't pass but are trying to use their efforts as a bargaining chip for when the government proposes its own bill for electoral reform, perhaps as early as next Wednesday.
"When [coalition chairman Avigdor] Yitzhaki proposes his own bill, Israel Beiteinu hopes that it will include some of our suggestions and ideas," the official said. "The ultimate goal is to influence that bill as much as possible so that either way we claim victory in the end."
Kadima officials said they would not propose their bill until they were sure that they had mustered enough support for its passage. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that Kadima's bill was very different from Israel Beiteinu's.
Lieberman's bill calls for a presidential system of government and voting on two ballots. Kadima calls for a one-ballot vote and would enact a system of allowing voters to select on election day the candidates of the party for which they vote.
Sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that his coalition negotiations with Lieberman did not require the bill to pass. Lieberman merely asked that Kadima support his electoral reform efforts in return for his party joining the coalition. Intensive talks between Kadima and Israel Beiteinu are expected after Olmert returns from Russia on Thursday.