Likud, Kadima to face off on reforms

The Likud will present a series of electoral reform bills to the Knesset next month in an effort make it harder to topple Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said Tuesday. Elkin said he would bring the bills to a vote immediately after passing the final readings of the 2009 state budget by the July 15 deadline. The bills are expected to face stiff opposition from Kadima, which already strategized how to defeat the legislation in Monday's faction meeting at the Knesset. The first bill would require an alternative candidate for prime minister to form a new coalition before a government was considered toppled in a no-confidence vote. This would change the current system whereby if a no-confidence vote passes and an alternative candidate for prime minister fails to form a government, the Knesset is dispersed and an election is initiated. Another bill would require a larger majority to pass bills that impact the budget. The legislation is intended to prevent opposition MKs from passing populist bills that taxpayers would have to pay for. In an effort to stabilize the coalition, Elkin will also work to pass a partial version of the so-called "Norwegian law," which allows one minister from each party in the coalition to resign in order to allow the next name on the party's list to enter the Knesset and the minister to return to the Knesset if he quits the cabinet. This bill is intended to satisfy Habayit Hayehudi, which wants former MK Nisan Slomiansky to be able to enter the Knesset in place of party chairman Daniel Herschkowitz. Passing the bill will also give the coalition five more MKs who are not ministers who can work on its behalf in Knesset committees. Perhaps the most controversial legislation Elkin wants to pass is the so-called "Mofaz bill," which would make it easier for the former Likud minister to break off from Kadima and return to his former party. The current law requires the support of a third of a faction to split it. In Kadima's case, that would mean 10 MKs. The "Mofaz bill" would require only seven MKs. Mofaz told Israel Radio on Tuesday that he had no intention of leaving Kadima. But Kadima officials are afraid that he would split the party if Netanyahu gave him the Foreign Ministry after a potential indictment of current minister and Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni told her faction on Monday that the Likud's bills were not intended to reform the electoral system, but to help Netanyahu's government politically. Her associates said it was unfair that the Likud would already be implementing the bills in the current Knesset instead of waiting for the next one, as has been done with other changes in the political system in the past. "Bibi is damaging, weakening and undermining democracy and putting his political survival ahead of the good of the nation," Livni said. Elkin responded that many past electoral reforms had been implemented in the same Knesset and that the Likud was not doing anything improper. He expressed confidence that he could pass the bills without a problem. "It's been proven that the coalition passes its laws by a large majority, and there is no doubt that there is a need for added stability in our system of government," Elkin said. "There is no reason to wait to pass such legislation that should have passed a long time ago. When Kadima was in power, its leaders talked a lot about electoral reform. We will make fewer declarations and get more done."