Opposition slams Yesh Atid electoral reform as anti-democratic

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On says the legislation, proposed by MK Ronen Hoffman, aims to remove Arab MKs from Knesset.

July 4, 2013 04:20
3 minute read.
Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On

Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370. (photo credit: ben hartman)


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Yesh Atid’s far-reaching electoral reform bill passed a preliminary Knesset reading on Wednesday, with opposition MKs warning it would endanger democracy.

The legislation, proposed by MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), calls for limiting the number of ministers to 18, who can each hold just one portfolio, and capping the number of deputy ministers at four. The bill would raise the minimum number of MKs required to pass a no-confidence motion from 61 to 65 and increase the electoral threshold from 2 percent to 4%.

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“For the last 15 years, every two-and-ahalf years on average, the government spends a billion shekels on elections and elected officials stop working for the public and work for themselves,” Hoffman said.

“We have had 12 health ministers in the past 15 years. How can we run a country like this? This bill is balanced.”

Almost every opposition MK attended the debate on the bill and interrupted Hoffman and Cohen throughout their speeches, shouting and calling the proposal anti-democratic.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On led the cries of protest, saying several times that Hoffman should be ashamed of his proposal and that he is trying to remove Arab MKs from the Knesset.

Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) defended the bill from those who claimed its change in the electoral threshold seeks to remove Arab parties from the Knesset, saying “you can’t always take things to such dark places.”

Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev interrupted incredulously: “You think you’re democratic? That this is new politics?” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein only allowed Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog to take the stand and speak for the opposition, because he was quiet during Hoffman and Cohen’s speeches.

Herzog warned Hoffman that he too will be hurt by the electoral reform bill, because one day he will be in the opposition.

“We will fight this law with all the parliamentary tools we have!” Herzog said.

“Democracy and the Knesset’s dignity are important to all of us.” The Labor MK called the bill dangerous and warned that Yisrael Beytenu’s electoral reform legislation is just as bad.

Opposition MKs demonstratively walked out when the Knesset marked 73 years since Likud ideological forebear Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s death, shouting comments like “what would Jabotinsky say about this anti-democratic bill?” Yacimovich opened her speech on Jabotinsky by saying she is disappointed that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would allow such a bill to stand.

“I understand that there’s a competition between Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu, two non-democratic parties, but I would expect that you, Justice Minister Livni, would express your opinion,” she stated.

The Labor leader also criticized Edelstein for trying to “educate” MKs, not allowing opposition lawmakers to speak and only calling up Herzog.

“What is this, a prize for good behavior?” she asked. “Interrupting is part of our parliamentary work. I ask and beg you as the speaker of this house to be democratic as Jabotinsky wrote.”

Livni responded to Yacimovich on Facebook, explaining that several coalition parties plan to submit electoral reform bills that will be passed by the Knesset in preliminary readings, after which they will be combined via Knesset committees. The justice minister said her voice will be heard in that committee, after Hatnua proposes its own electoral reform.

So far, only Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid have submitted bills.

“I heard Yacimovich’s speech,” Livni wrote. “It’s her job to criticize. It’s true that there may be coalitions where it’s easier to promote peace, equality and social issues, but the current government was formed partially by Yacimovich who refused to join it. I respect her decision, but her speech was disrespectful.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Knesset prepared for its first reading a bill by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) that limits the presidential election and that of the state comptroller to only two rounds. Only the two candidates that received the most votes in the first round will continue on to the second. Currently, three rounds of voting are permitted.

“This change will ensure a more dignified process,” said Levin. “Three rounds means that the decision is usually pushed off to the third round and the dignity of the person who is elected is harmed, since the Knesset took so long to approve him.”

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