Electoral system and voter eligibility

How do I know if I'm eligible to vote? In order to vote in the upcoming elections on March 28, 2006, for the Israel's 17th parliament, you must be listed in the "voter's book." You can check to see if you are on the list at the following phone numbers: English: 1 800 200 175 Hebrew: 1 800 200 172 Fax: 03 929 8511 The phone lines are open 24 hours a day, but can only be reached from land lines (i.e., not mobile phones). The automatic system asks callers to punch in their nine-digit ID number (teudat zehut number), then provides the location and number of the caller's voting poll. In order to be eligible, a person must be 18 years old as of March 28, 2006, and an Israeli citizen as of February 2, 2006, i.e., registered with the Population Registry and residing in Israel. If for some reason you don't appear on that list, you must inquire why at the Ministry of Interior. Where do I vote? The Central Elections Committee will publish an exact list in the middle of February How does Israel's electoral system work? Israel's electoral system is based on nation-wide proportional representation. Every citizen of Israel above the age of 18 has a right to cast one vote, by secret ballot, selecting a political party to represent him in the Knesset (parliament). The Knesset has 120 electoral seats. Thus, voters elect a party slate rather than a particular candidate. The percentage of total votes each party receives directly determines how many Knesset seats that party is awarded. The only limitation is the 2% qualifying threshold, by which a party must receive at least 2% of the vote to be elected. Each individual party selects who will fill the Knesset seats according to the number of mandates it is awarded in the national election. Each party draws up a list of its Knesset candidates in order of priority. If, for example, a party wins 10 percent of the vote and earns 12 mandates, the first twelve party members on the list will obtain Knesset seats. Each party creates its Knesset list according to the party's chosen method. Some elect representatives through party primaries, other choose via the party's institutions, while in ultra-religious parties the representatives are often appointed by the party's spiritual leader. If for any reason an MK withdraws during a Knesset term, the next person on that party's list automatically replaces him. What qualifies a party to run in the elections? Since the elections to the 14th Knesset (1996), only parties registered under the 1992 Parties Law, or lists made up of several parties, or a registered party running together in a single list with additional groups and individuals can participate in the elections. A party cannot register if it rejects the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel, incites to racism, or there is reason to believe it will function as a cover for illegal activities. Who can stand for election? Candidates must be Israeli citizens without an additional citizenship and at least 21 years old. They cannot have served a prison sentence of five years or more for an offense against state security, unless five years have passed since their release. A court can also deny a person the right to run. The following cannot be candidates for the Knesset: the president of the state, the two chief rabbis, civil and religious judges, the state comptroller; the chief of General Staff; senior civil servants and religious officials who receive a salary from the state. However, they may run for office if they resign from their previous position a minimum of 100 days before the elections. There are also legal limitations barring members of an outgoing Knesset who have left their original parliamentary groups from running with other parties in the next elections. How often are parliamentary elections held? The Knesset elections take place once every four years, but the Knesset can decide by an ordinary majority to dissolve itself and hold early elections. Alternatively, the prime minister can recommend to the President to call for early elections (as in the current case), but a Knesset majority can block that initiative. Under certain circumstances a Knesset can serve for more than four years. Text of Knesset Law: The electoral system is based primarily on two laws: the Basic Law: the Knesset of 1958 and the Knesset Elections Law (combined version) of 1969. For a history of the Knesset building click here. Compiled by Sari A. Cohen.