Is it democratic when rejects govern the country?

It seems that present day politicians enjoy playing their game of musical chairs, especially when there are enough chairs to go around and no one is left without a seat.

By SHMUEL SHIMSHONI
May 25, 2016 19:01
4 minute read.
Casting a vote

Casting a vote. (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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The time is long overdue to correct the way Israel is governed.

That our current system has worked for so long is something of a miracle – but it’s not wise to depend upon miracles forever. Most citizens of the country deliberate a great deal before heading to the polls on Election Day to cast their vote, and yet the resulting government often depends as much on coalition deal-making as on the voice of the people.

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Israelis don’t have the ability to elect individuals but must choose an entire list, most of whom they really don’t trust to run the country. The party lists usually include individuals who are well known to large numbers of the populace.

These usually include ex-military officers, entertainers, sports figures, etc., who have developed a popular following.

Some will support a party that has been the choice of their ancestors, even though the party platform has entirely changed direction.

After the votes are tallied, usually two out of the dozens of political party lists emerge with major support. The rest, some with very few seats, have been rejected by the greater part of the electorate.

Then comes the haggling about who the leading, but not majority, party will include in its efforts to form a coalition government. Ministerial positions, membership in financial committees and budget allocations are the price that must be paid for support. Even if basic interests of the rejected political parties differ from or are opposed to those of the party chosen by the majority of the electorate, supreme efforts are made to attract them into a coalition.

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The resulting coalition is like a bad marriage that from the outset has little chance of surviving for a full term. Such coalitions survive only when, following a tantrum of sorts, some extra recompense is offered to marginal supporters from time to time, to shore up the leading party’s shaky position – until the next opportunity arises to make demands.

A coalition government may last for two or three years. If we are lucky it may hold out for the full four-year term, or until some of the adopted members become bored with the arrangement and decide to call for a vote of no confidence, thereby threatening to dissolve the government.

This might be followed by some more haggling or a decision to call for new elections. Such an occurrence brings government business to a halt when there are serious domestic or foreign problems that must be dealt with.

How much longer must we suffer this kind of behavior? It seems that our politicians enjoy playing their game of musical chairs too much to do anything about it – especially when there are enough chairs to go around and no one is left without a seat.

However, there is a simple solution, if only the electorate would push for it.

We pay the taxes and therefore should have a say in how we wish to have our country administered.

Along with the next election, in addition to our vote for party lists we should be given a chance to vote for change in the electoral and governing system, by referendum. Ordinary citizens – not Knesset members – should be able to choose: 1. If there is no clear majority for any one party following the election, a follow- up vote should be held between the two parties with the highest number of ballots two weeks after the final count.

In that way a majority government would be chosen without the need to form a coalition. This would be a decidedly more honest way to elect a governing body.

2. Ministers should not be selected from among the 120 Knesset members.

They should be appointed or drafted from among the populace, according to their individual expertise, each in his or her field. Not every ex-general is fit to fill a position in the cabinet, either.

Surely the politicians ruling today are vehemently against any such a plan, but they should be made to realize that this is the peoples’ choice. This is a way to form an honest and responsible Knesset and a governing cabinet of accountable individuals, not beholden to any particular political party.

One would surely surmise that I loathe the present political system presently in force in Israel, and rightly so. But instead of complaining, I hope to garner support for a change that will be a vast improvement over the narrow-minded way we choose those who are to govern our nation in the future.

Let’s get out of the box and breathe some new life into Israeli politics.

The writer lives in Hadera and is a retired master locksmith and undertaker .

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