Livni abandons support for regional elections

Livni abandons support f

Efforts to enact direct regional elections for part of the Knesset suffered a blow this week when Kadima leader Tzipi Livni sent Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon to Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman to advance enacting a presidential system of government. Until now, enacting a presidential system was supported only by Israel Beiteinu, while direct, regional elections for part of the Knesset was backed by Likud, Labor, and Kadima MKs, constituting a majority of the parliament. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) announced last month that he would begin a new effort to persuade MKs to make that change in the current Knesset. He intended to advance a regional elections bill drafted in the last Knesset by top Kadima, Likud and Labor MKs, which was advanced by Kadima's chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, Menahem Ben-Sasson, but blocked by Shas. But now that Livni has apparently changed her stance and joined forces with Lieberman, it would be almost impossible to obtain a majority for any changes in the political system. Livni's associates said her views about how to change the electoral system had been evolving over time, and have not been finalized yet. She wants to push for electoral reforms now in order to embarrass the Likud, which will have to vote against it due to its coalition agreement with Shas. Lieberman will make a renewed push for electoral reforms, via his ally, Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem, in an effort to leave his mark on the political system before an expected indictment on corruption charges. Rotem said that besides elements of a presidential system, Israel Beiteinu and Livni agree on raising the electoral threshold and making the head of the largest party prime minister automatically. Ironically, if the latter change had been made before the election, it would have prevented Lieberman from assuming the status of kingmaker he enjoyed when the current coalition was formed. Likud officials accused Kadima and Israel Beiteinu of "political spinning" and said there was no chance of them passing any of their reforms. "It's pathetic that Livni and Kadima, which opposed the Likud's changes in the electoral system with full force just two months ago are suddenly gung-ho about making changes," coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said. "[Former Kadima prime minister Ehud] Olmert at one point promised changes in the electoral system within three months, but after three years of Kadima in power, it didn't happen." Livni hosted some 500 Kadima activists and many MKs in her succa in Tel Aviv Tuesday night. Though she had visited the succa of her party rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, on Sunday, he did not attend her succa party, because he was on a vacation in Paris. Mofaz's associates said his trip was planned well in advance. "The State of Israel needs Kadima, and every day that passes since the government was formed proves it more and more," Livni told the crowd. "In Israel there is finally a party that sticks to its principles and its promises and for which words like 'values' and 'ideology' are not foreign."