Netanyahu vows to change electoral system

PM: Likud, Yisrael Beytenu to meet in order to bridge gap on electoral reform; Liberman suggests presidential system.

Netanyahu at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu faction on Tuesday that significant changes would be made to the electoral system at the beginning of his new term.
Stabilizing the electoral system is the primary demand of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, as well as a key issue for likely coalition partner Yesh Atid.
In his ceremonial speech to the newly sworn-in Knesset, Netanyahu said it was wonderful that ministers and committee chairmen were able to do their jobs for four years because his last government lasted that long, but that more had to be done to ensure political stability for the future.
“It cannot be that the country facing the most challenges should suffer from instability and a weak electoral system,” Netanyahu said in the speech.
The prime minister told the Likud Beytenu faction that meetings would be held soon, to bridge the gaps between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu on electoral reform.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who chaired a coalition committee on the issue in the outgoing government, said the two parties had already come closer on key electoral reforms.
Liberman has given up his hope for an electoral system that resembles a presidential system, which no other party backed.
The Likud has abandoned its support for direct regional elections for part of the Knesset, that once had the backing of Labor and Kadima, but that Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich opposes, and Kadima no longer has enough power to advance.
Katz said the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu agree on raising the electoral threshold from 2 to 3 percent.
In the last Knesset, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Bayit Yehudi opposed such a move, but all three parties can now support it because Bayit Yehudi and UTJ have grown and Shas has lost mandates due to small parties that might not have run, had the threshold been higher.
The Likud and Yisrael Beytenu also both back making it harder to topple a government by requiring a special majority for no-confidence votes. Legal advisers are investigating whether such a change could be implemented in the current Knesset.
Two issues on which the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu are divided are limiting the size of the cabinet and whether the leader of the largest party should automatically be prime minister.
Yisrael Beytenu, like Yesh Atid, wants there to be only 18 ministers, while the Likud wants more.
Katz warned Liberman in the faction meeting that making the leader of the largest party prime minister automatically would result in ad hoc coalitions of parties ahead of elections just for the sake of winning.
He warned that this could cause “chaos,” because a prime minister could be elected who would not be the leader of the largest bloc in the Knesset.
Liberman responded that his support for the change was “not holy” and a source close to him said he was willing to compromise.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat called upon Netanyahu to take action to change the system for electing the party’s MKs while he changes the electoral system of the state. She complained that the present system of holding primaries among the party’s members enabled people who do not vote Likud to decide the party’s Knesset slate.