Electoral reforms die on coalition altar

Direct regional elections will have to wait, due to the opposition of Shas and Israel Beiteinu.

Knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Proposals to start electing half the Knesset in direct regional elections will have to wait until after the next general election due to the opposition of Shas and Israel Beiteinu, the head of the Likud's coalition negotiating team, MK Gideon Sa'ar, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Sa'ar himself proposed a bill a year-and-a-half ago to initiate direct regional elections. The bill was co-sponsored by top Kadima and Labor MKs and had the support of Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu. But Shas's opposition prevented it from passing in the last Knesset because parties in the coalition were given veto power over changes in the Basic Law. He said the same would happen in the coalition currently being formed, especially if it ends up being a narrow coalition of 65 MKs. "Regional elections cannot pass because of Shas and Israel Beiteinu," Sa'ar said. "It cannot be done in a narrow coalition against the will of those parties unless we want to have another election in two months." Sa'ar said he would try to pass electoral reforms that a consensus of the coalition could agree on. In a meeting Sa'ar convened with representatives of factions likely to join the coalition on Monday, they decided to already support some reforms that are intended to strengthen governmental stability. The reforms include requiring the support of at least 55 MKs to pass private members bills that cost taxpayers money and making it harder to topple a prime minister via no-confidence votes and proposals to disperse the Knesset. "We have many ideas and we wanted to see what we could already accomplish now," Sa'ar said. "The fact that we succeeded in reaching the agreements we did was encouraging for me." A committee will be formed of representatives of all the factions to continue to advance additional electoral reforms after the government has been formed. Kadima announced last Tuesday that it had submitted an electoral-reform bill drafted by former Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson that included direct regional directions. Ben-Sasson, who led electoral reform efforts in the last Knesset, said it was unfortunate some of the key reforms he tried to advance would now be stalled by coalition politics. "It is a pity that even before the government has been formed, people who were heavily involved in bringing about important changes are now losing hope," Ben-Sasson said. "The goal of getting elected is to make policies, not coalitions."