Mini-electoral reforms making progress

Kadima sees Rivlin's intervention as a "declaration of war."

Rivlin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
Rivlin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Three months after the close race between Likud and Kadima sparked a wave of calls for electoral reform, small changes in the political system began advancing this week in the cabinet and the Knesset. The cabinet on Sunday approved the so-called "mini-Norwegian law," which will allow one minister from each party in the coalition to resign from the legislature in favor of the next name on their party's Knesset candidates list and then return to the Knesset if they quit the cabinet. The change, which Labor ministers opposed, still must pass in the Knesset. Once that happens, two Ethiopian immigrants will become MKs: Alali Adamso of Likud and Mazor Bayana of Shas. Harvard-educated consultant Einat Wilf will join on Labor's behalf, Israel Beiteinu's new MK will be Kiryat Gat social worker Viktor Ifrahimov, and former MK Nisan Slomiansky will return to the Knesset with Habayit Hayehudi. The change is intended to give the coalition five additional active lawmakers to represent their parties in the Knesset after the appointment of 40 ministers and deputy ministers gave the coalition a disadvantage in parliamentary work. Ministers are barred from voting in Knesset committees because it would be a conflict of interest, but deputy ministers were permitted until recently. Legal authorities issued a ruling a year ago urging that deputies be barred from serving on committees that deal with matters pertaining to their ministries, especially the Knesset Finance Committee. Then-Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik took the ruling one step further and banned all deputy ministers from serving on all committees. This did not create a problem in the last Knesset when there were only two deputy ministers, but now there are nine. The Knesset House Committee will meet on Wednesday to vote on a proposal to take a step backward and allow deputy ministers to serve on committees that do not pertain to their ministries, as the legal authorities recommended. The cabinet will vote in upcoming weeks on proposals to raise the number of MKs needed to pass a bill dispersing the Knesset from 61 to 65 and to require a candidate for prime minister in a "constructive no-confidence vote" to prove that he would have the ability to build an alternative coalition. Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said all the reforms would be brought to a vote in the Knesset as one package in upcoming weeks. Kadima officials said the party would do everything possible to block the reforms. They accused Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of using his position, which is intended to be apolitical and statesmanlike, to help the coalition's survival efforts. "If Rivlin gives his hand to such moves, he will be remembered as the first Knesset speaker who made the Knesset into the cabinet's lackey," a Kadima official said. "We would see this as a declaration of war on the principle of separation of powers. Rivlin must remember that he heads the Knesset and not a branch of the Likud."