Megidor calls for reform in system of electing MKs

Panel proposes that half be chosen on a regional basis.

The Megidor Committee appointed by President Moshe Katsav calls for the retention of the parliamentary system of government together with a combined system of regional and proportional elections to choose MKs, according to a copy of the report available on Sunday. The recommendation to change the system of parliamentary representation is the key reform proposed by a committee of 73 academics, public figures, rabbis, mayors, senior civil servants, former judges, businessmen and others headed by Prof. Menachem Megidor, the president of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The committee's report will officially be presented to Katsav at a ceremony at Beit Hanassi on Monday. Among the committee members are former Labor Party MK and minister Moshe Shahal, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, the chairman of the board of directors of Delta, Dov Lautman, former air force commander David Ivri and former Likud MK Uriel Lynn. The committee was established by Katsav and held its first plenary session on September 25, 2005. According to its recommendations, 60 MKs will be elected on a regional basis, according to the administrative districts created by the minister of interior. The number of representatives per region will be a function of the population of each. The other 60 MKs will be elected by proportional representation, according to the total number of votes that each party wins in the regional elections. The voter's ballot for the national list will go to the party of the candidate for whom he has voted in the regional contest. In other words, voters will not be allowed to split their votes. The voting threshold will be fixed at 2.5 percent. In order for a party to be represented in the Knesset, it will have to elect a representative in at least three different regions or win 2.5 percent of the total votes cast. However, a mechanism will be created to modify the aggregate of votes a party has won overall in the regional elections, even if it did not win enough in any single region to elect a representative. The Megidor Committee proposed that the cabinet include eight to 18 ministers, each one responsible for a specific portfolio, and a maximum of five deputy ministers. Should a party win 35 seats or more in the election, it will automatically be charged with the task of forming a government, and the president will not have the authority to give the job to whomever he considers the candidate with the best chance. If no party wins 35 seats, the president will retain the power to decide which party leader will be given the first chance. Except for the prime minister and his deputy, all other MKs chosen for the cabinet will have to resign their Knesset seats, according to the Megidor proposal. However, they will return to the Knesset should they cease to be ministers. The cabinet must be approved by an absolute Knesset majority (i.e., at least 61 MKs). To bring down the government, the opposition must approve a no-confidence motion by an absolute majority of MKs and agree upon a successor as prime minister and seven ministers who will join the next government. According to the Megidor Committee proposal, the Finance Ministry's budget department and the Government Companies' Authority will move from the treasury to the Prime Minister's Office. The budget will be approved for two years at a time, and the ministries will be given greater freedom to decide how to spend the money allotted to them. The Megidor Committee recommended reducing the number of parliamentary committees and limiting the number of members in each one to up to 12. Each MK will be prohibited from belonging to more than two committees, and committee chairmen will be barred from belonging to any other committee but the one they head. According to the committee, the only legislation that will have to be introduced in order to implement the reform is an amendment to the Political Parties' Law, stipulating that in order to vote in internal party decisions, including party primaries, the person must have been registered and paid membership dues to the party for the previous 18 months.