Knesset lawyer slams Rotem’s electoral reform plan

Law c’tee chairman: Letter is "interference"; Labor MK Bar: MKs should see critiques as a warning against supporting bill.

David Rotem 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
David Rotem 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, in a strongly worded letter Tuesday, fiercely criticized the electoral reform proposal that Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Likud Beytenu) is expected to pass in a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.
Rotem’s bill would increase the electoral threshold to four percent, limit the number of ministers including the prime minister to 19 and extend the amount of time a new government has to pass a budget from 45 to 100 days. The bill would require no-confidence motions to be submitted by at least 61 MKs who agree on an alternative candidate for prime minister.
If that candidate were to be unable to form a government, the Knesset would not be dissolved.
If the bill passes in its preliminary reading, Likud Beytenu’s coalition partners intend to veto and remove key clauses in the bill before it is passed into law. Yesh Atid will hold a conference with electoral reform organizations on Wednesday to determine how best to change the bill.
Labor MK Hilik Bar wrote Yinon asking whether Rotem’s bill was anti-democratic.
In his response to Bar, Yinon wrote that he could not prevent the bill’s advancement but that he would send a letter to all MKs asking them to be more careful with controversial legislation.
“There is no illegality in the proposal because the Knesset is permitted in principle to change Basic Laws and the rules of the game,” Yinon wrote.
“However, it is important that Knesset members understand the implications and ramifications of the changes they propose and carefully consider such electoral changes.”
Regarding the requirement of 61 MKs to submit no-confidence motions, Yinon wrote that it was wrong to change the rules of the game immediately with the current Knesset so the bill should not take effect until the next Knesset if it passes.
He also suggested giving the opposition a new way to express itself other than no-confidence motions.
“The result of the legislation would be the cancellation of the institution of no-confidence motions as the central platform for deliberations and government criticism and the central tool of the opposition to obtain the public’s attention on issues,” Yinon wrote.
“The proposal lacks an effective alternative to compensate the opposition for losing such an important parliamentary tool.”
Yinon said the change would violate the principle of the government requiring the Knesset’s confidence. He also criticized the proposal for canceling the role of the president in dispersing the Knesset, writing that such a change would enable prime ministers to advance elections to a time that would be convenient for them politically.
Bar said MKs should see Yinon’s letter to him as a warning not to vote for the bill on Wednesday. He called upon the coalition to immediately backtrack from the bill and instead begin a serious process of considering change in the electoral system that would not cause significant harm to Israeli democracy.
Rotem wrote Yinon expressing outrage over the letter. He said it was wrong of Yinon to question MKs’ understanding of the ramifications of the bills they propose.
“Submitting your legal opinion to all the MKs before they vote is improper interference in the legislative work of the Knesset,” Rotem wrote.
“I wonder why even though I have been an MK since 2007, I have never received a legal opinion from you about the need to understand bills legislated by the Knesset.”