Ramon drafts mandatory primaries bill

Law requires political parties to elect highest-ranking Knesset candidates.

ramon press conf 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
ramon press conf 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Justice Ministry on Thursday published the draft of a bill making it mandatory for all big political parties to hold primaries to elect most of the highest-ranked candidates on the party's Knesset slate. The amendment to the political party's law also clarifies and toughens the rules regarding election funding, including the possibility of filing criminal charges against offenders. "The law will put an end to the unacceptable developments that have affected the parties in previous years, including fraudulent party enrollments, which cast a shadow on the democratic process and harmed the Knesset. The legislation will result in the elections within the parties being conducted with the utmost honest and transparency," Ramon said. On the day he took over as Justice Minister last month, Ramon stressed the importance of passing the mandatory primaries bill. According to a Justice Ministry spokesman, the ministry had prepared the draft of such a bill in 2003. However, it was Ramon who dusted off the document and had it polished so that it could begin the legislative process. According to the draft, every party that has at least 30,000 members or 15 Knesset representatives will have to hold primary elections for the prime minister and for the top positions in the Knesset slate. The primaries will choose the representatives for at least twice as many Knesset seats as it started off with in the outgoing Knesset. The parties will be allowed to appoint no more than 10 percent of these candidates according to other criteria, but the candidate for prime minister cannot be one of them. The primaries for all of the parties will be held within the space of one month, some 90 to 120 days before the date of the general election. If the election is caused by the fall of the government, they will be held within 14 to 28 days of the government's fall. Every party that is bound by the law to hold primaries will prepare its own regulations for holding them. This will give them a certain degree of autonomy within the general framework. For example, each party will determine how its primaries will be conducted, how its elected candidates will be ranked and how long members must belong to the party in order to vote in the primary. These regulations must be approved the Registrar of Political Parties, who will also supervise the primaries to see that they are conducted in accordance with the approved regulations. The bill officially increases the ceiling on contributions to candidates to NIS 10,000 during the election period, which is defined as being the nine months prior to the primary. It also incorporates the ceiling on expenditures passed as a temporary provision before the last elections. For example, a candidate running for election in a party that has more than 5,000 members may not spend more than a total of NIS 400,000. The bill appoints the State Comptroller as the overall supervisor of election financing instead of the party supervisory apparatus and the Registrar of Political Parties, as in the current law. The candidates must submit a list of all those who contributed to their campaign and the sum of money each one gave. If the Comptroller finds that during the election campaign a candidate received a contribution above the legal limit or spent more than allowed by the law, he is liable to a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine of four times the sum of money that exceeded the legal limit.