Analysis: Kissing the president's hand

The hope is that appearing before the president will remind politicians that they are not above the state.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
The series of consultations held between representatives of the political parties and President Moshe Katsav obviously focuses a great deal of attention on the normally quiet street in Rehavia where Beit Hanassi is located, but in reality, it's no more than a show, a formality that serves as a prelude to the real thing. The president has no real power, and of course he can't alter the public's will as expressed in the election results. There has never been any question as to who will eventually be summoned to form a new government, but the hope is that appearing before the president will humble the politicians and remind our newly elected leaders that they are not above the state.
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The horse-trading going on over the last few days - Amir Peretz's fiasco in trying to set up an alternative coalition with the Right and Ehud Olmert's countermoves - proves that the latest crop of political leaders holds nothing sacred. They haven't even got the good manners to wait a week for the president's decision. But why should we blame them when the consultations are such an obvious charade. In Britain, the prime minister also has to go and "kiss hands" with the queen before he forms a new government, but at least there it's over in ten minutes. The change made to the Basic Law: The Government in 2001 whereby a no-confidence vote requires 61 MKs supporting an alternative prime ministerial candidate to bring the government down leaves the president with even less power. He would have no choice but to choose that candidate for the job. The other political farce this week was the search parties scrabbling around the Central Elections Commission's main warehouse in Shoham, frantically looking through ballot boxes in the hope of finding the missing votes needed to move Knesset mandates from party to party. UAL's success on Sunday night in taking a seat off Labor sent the other parties on a treasure hunt after golden votes ahead of this morning's 9 a.m. deadline. But does anyone seriously believe that there was even one voter who wavered between UAL and Labor? Proportional representation, a low minimum threshold and the mathematical intricacies of the Bader-Ofer Law that determines the division of seats among the parties has created the absurd current situation whereby paper-thin margins between parties of disparate size and diametrically-opposed ideologies alter the balance of power. But perhaps this is the last time we'll go through the motions at Beit Hanassi and by the next elections, the final results will indeed be final. A less noticed part of Kadima's platform, but one that appeared in Ariel Sharon's now famous "Leaving the Likud" speech, was the promise to reform the electoral system and ensure longer-lived governments. The inconclusive results of last week's elections, the instability of the next government and the joke that is the Gil Pensioners Party all emphasize the need for change. Sharon's original intent was to establish a presidential style of government. This would have made it much harder for political rebels to make his life a misery, as the Likudniks did. Sharon might have been able to push it through. Olmert has little chance, and with the relatively small Kadima, he will have to seek consensus for a less radical change. Probably a higher electoral threshold and at least part of the Knesset elected by local constituencies. In the past, the opposition and the smaller parties in the coalition were against any change, but it finally seems that there might be wider receptivity to these ideas. This is the final installment in the Electionscape series, and I would like to end it with the hope that by the next time we go to the polls, a new electoral system will enable us to deliver a clearer verdict on whom we want to put in charge of the country's future.