Israel holds more elections on average than most democracies - study

Since 1996, Israel has on average had a new election every 2.3 years compared to other countries with a gap of three or more.

NETANYAHU AND GANTZ vote in April. Are we simply on our way to a fourth election?  (photo credit: REUTERS)
NETANYAHU AND GANTZ vote in April. Are we simply on our way to a fourth election?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As Israel starts preparing to hold its fourth election in just two years, many in the Jewish state are becoming overwhelmed with election fatigue, while it appears that governments of many other countries are far more stable.
According to a new study published by the Israel Democracy Institute, these assumptions are indeed correct: Israel is ranked as having had more elections, on average, than nearly any other parliamentary democracy.
The study, conducted by IDI research fellow Prof. Ofer Kenig, found that since 1996, Israel has on average held a new election every 2.3 years.

An IDI study lists the average frequency of elections parliamentary democracies age number of elections parliamentary democracies have had since 1996. (Photo credit: Prof. Ofer Kenig/Israel Democracy Institute)An IDI study lists the average frequency of elections parliamentary democracies age number of elections parliamentary democracies have had since 1996. (Photo credit: Prof. Ofer Kenig/Israel Democracy Institute)
By comparison, with the exception of Greece, which is second on the list, most other parliamentary democracies are shown to be far more stable. While in Greece, elections have been held on average every 2.5 years, every other country surveyed has had a gap of at least three years between polls. According to the study, Ireland is the country with the fewest elections: once every 4.5 years.
The study’s starting point is 1996, when Benjamin Netanyahu won the first of his five terms as prime minister. While it is unclear if this is a coincidence, Kenig nonetheless blamed both Netanyahu and the ability of parliamentary democracies to call early elections so easily.
“This unfortunate reality is the result of a combination of a deep-seated crisis of governance compounded by the unbearable ease with which early elections can be called – while at the same time we have a prime minister who has ensured that the public interest is held hostage to the leader’s personal considerations,” Kenig said in a statement.
Since 1996, Netanyahu has been a central figure in Israeli politics, and despite losing to Ehud Barak in 1999, he has held a firm grip on the premiership since 2009 and is now Israel’s longest-serving leader.
Kenig says this is particularly interesting, as compared to other parliamentary democracies. “Netanyahu’s long tenure in power places Israel in sixth place” in terms of average tenure for prime ministers in office.
But while some might claim that this indicates stability and consistency, Kenig disagrees. “This sense of stability is illusionary,” he explained.
“While the prime minister has remained in office, the political system has suffered from high levels of instability for the past decade.”
The fact that for this period, Netanyahu has consistently dominated the office of prime minister and has remained a key player in Israeli politics for nearly three decades – and this is a sore spot for many who oppose his leadership. This is reflected in the many attempts by Israeli politicians, most recently former Likud MK and Netanyahu’s nemesis Gideon Sa’ar, to set term limits for the job of prime minister.
“Remaining in power for a long time is dangerous for the freedom of the nation,” Sa’ar said, quoting former Likud prime minister Menachem Begin.
Before he became prime minister the first time, Netanyahu also said he favored setting term limits.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.