Kadima advancing 'self-destructive' electoral reform

Electoral reform proposal gives leader of largest party the first chance to form a new government. According to polls, that will be Likud.

knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson of Kadima intends to advance an electoral reform proposal after the Annapolis conference that Kadima MKs said on Thursday could bring about the party's demise. The proposal would automatically give the leader of the largest party the first chance to form a new government instead of the current system, whereby the president selects the party chairman whom he believes would have the best chance of forming a stable coalition. According to a Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast Thursday on Israel Radio, if an election were held today, the Likud would win 31 seats, Labor 20 and Kadima 13. But if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni replaced Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as head of Kadima, the party would pass Defense Minister Ehud Barak's floundering Labor Party in the polls. Likud would win 28 seats, Kadima 21 and Labor 18. Kadima MKs on Thursday discussed the realistic possibility that Livni could get elected head of the party and tighten the gap with opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud. They said that under the current system, if Netanyahu defeated Livni by a small margin, President Shimon Peres of Kadima could ask Livni to form the government instead of Netanyahu. But if Ben-Sasson's proposal were adopted, Netanyahu would form the government. The proposal could also harm Kadima if Likud and Labor were able to form blocs ahead of the election with their satellite parties and Kadima ran solo. National Union MK Arye Eldad said that if the reform were enacted, the National Union would have to run together with the Likud. Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan said his party would be pressured to join Labor. Kadima MKs were divided over whether their party would be able to form a bloc and what partnership they should seek. A vote on the proposal in the committee in June finished in a tie. Ben-Sasson said he believed he could pass all his reforms if they were brought to a vote together as a package deal. "All the work on all the electoral reforms has been completed and now we are waiting until after Annapolis to decide whether to bring them to a vote as a package or one by one," Ben-Sasson said. Ironically, the Likud, which is the party that polls show would benefit most from the prime ministerial selection reform is also the party most opposed to the change. "The Likud should support it but they are afraid," said Ben-Sasson. But Likud faction chair Gideon Sa'ar, who is a member of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said he opposed the reform because he was concerned that smaller parties would take advantage of the new situation and raise their price exorbitantly for reserved slots on the Knesset lists of the larger parties. Kadima MKs on the committee said that when the reform was first proposed, Kadima still led the Likud in the polls, so they were not worried about the potential detrimental effect to the party at the time. They said the reform proposal came in the wake of the short-lived and long forgotten attempt by then-Labor chairman Amir Peretz to form a socioeconomically-focused government with the National Union and Shas before the current government was formed. The Kadima MKs acknowledged that the reform could ultimately be "self-destructive" for Kadima. But they said they still intended to vote for it, for the greater good. "The country is what matters most to me," MK Amira Dotan said. "Stability is not just dogma. We need a strong and intelligent leadership that can be stable enough to govern." "We have to do what's best for our children, not our party," MK Otniel Schneller added.