Early elections may give PM a 5-day term

If the 2006 budget doesn't pass, new elections will be called ahead of schedule.

sharon alone in knesset (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
sharon alone in knesset
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In a country infamous for unstable governments, the next prime minister to take office may be the shortest serving of all - five days. The Knesset is likely to disperse as of next Monday, with no opportunity to pass the 2006 budget. By law, an emergency budget can be enacted for up to three months, thereby giving the state extra time to operate. If no permanent budget is approved by March 31, the Knesset is automatically dispersed and elections are called. These dates are key for the vying political parties to keep in mind. Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz appears to have settled on March 7 as a "suitable" election date, say his representatives. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well, appears to be toting March as a good month to go to the polls. However, a government elected March 7 would have 20 days to take office, making their first official day in office March 27. That would give them exactly five days to draft a budget, lay it on the Knesset table, pass a first reading, approve any revisions and then pass a second and third reading. Failure to do so will end that government, sending the public once again, to the polls. "It would appear that if they couldn't pass a budget by March 31, they would have to hold elections again," said a Knesset spokesman. "That would be a very tight position to be in." Wednesday's Knesset session may have been the last for this government, as MKs from all sides bantered and laid bets over its imminent fall. In the beginning of the week, Wednesday had been hailed as the day for toppling the government, as MKs Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) and Yitzhak Levy (National Union) submitted bills to disperse the Knesset and the Meretz-Yahad party submitted a no-confidence motion on the same day. Both of those moves, however, have been rescheduled for next week following rounds of political dueling between Likud, Labor and the opposition parties. "Everyone is now looking towards next Monday as being the 'last' day," said a Knesset spokesman. "The bill to disperse the Knesset may be presented at the beginning of the Monday session, so today [Wednesday] may have been the last real day for anyone to pass a bill or open discussion. From here on out it will be election, election, election." Peretz had worked out a deal with Orlev and Levy to delay the bill to dissolve the Knesset Monday night. In return, Peretz agreed to coordinate with the two MKs over a date to hold new elections. Speaking from Tunisia, Foreign Minister Silvan Sharon (Likud) has said that Sharon would support holding elections in March. Several important questions remain however, over unfinished legislature from the current session. In addition to the 2006 budget vote, other bills on immigration, welfare and electoral reform were also slated for discussion in the winter session. Rumors even circulated that the Knesset's constitutional committee would propose an initial draft for a constitution. Several MKs have stated that dispersing the Knesset at this point was an irresponsible move on the part of the Israeli legislature. "The faction views the dissolving of the national unity government as an irresponsible political move on the part of the Labor party and its chairman," said a Likud party spokesman. "The Likud will unite against Amir Peretz's extreme plans, which endanger Israel's security and the economy."