HCJ to Likud: Scrap charter amendment

Amendment punishes Likud MKs for voting in unbeneficial ways.

court gavel 88 (photo credit:)
court gavel 88
(photo credit: )
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday urged the Likud Central Committee to repeal an amendment to its constitution which punishes Likud MKs if they vote for legislation that would force big political parties to elect their Knesset candidates by party-wide primaries. "Cancel it," Supreme Court Deputy President Mishael Cheshin told the Likud lawyer Renato Yarak. "It shouldn't exist. What do you need it for?" Yarak was hired to represent the Likud after the party's legal adviser, Eitan Haberman, refused to defend the amendment. Yarak asked the court for 45 days to prepare his case, explaining that he had just received the material in the past few days. When the court made it clear it would not wait that long, Yarak said he needed a few days to see whether party leaders would agree to publicly declare that the disputed amendment would not be in effect during the current election campaign. The panel of three high court justices including Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, Deputy President Mishael Cheshin and Dorit Beinisch gave Yarak one week to consult with Likud leaders. However, Beinisch told him that his proposal was problematic and might not be accepted by the court even if it were accepted by the Likud. The Movement for Quality Government petitioned the High Court of Justice on April 4 to bar the central committee amendment which was passed three months earlier. According to the amendment, any MK who voted for a bill calling on the large political parties to choose their slate of candidates by a primary vote open to all party members would not be eligible to run for re-election in the Likud. Since 1997, the 3,000-member Likud Central Committee has elected the party's slate of Knesset candidates. The head of the Movement for Quality Government, Eliad Shraga, has called the election of MKs by the party's central committee the "father of all corruption" and charged that the system is responsible for political appointments, favoritism in awarding contracts and other irregularities. The High Court held its first hearing on the petition on May 16. At the time, it agreed to allow the Likud to reconsider the matter. In August, the Likud's internal court ruled that the amendment was proper. On Wednesday, the High Court resumed hearings and was clearly dissatisfied at Yarak's request for more time. Yarak argued that the Likud amendment had no practical implications for the time being since no one in the Knesset intended to present a bill calling for party-wide primaries in the short period of time before the Likud chooses its slate of candidates for the upcoming elections. However, the judges rejected the argument and indicated that they wanted to see the amendment repealed as quickly as possible, even if the threat of punishment was only theoretical for the time being.