Political parties are better together

In an election, every vote should count

Labor leader Amir Peretz and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz (photo credit: LABOR-GESHER PARTY SPOKESPERSON)
Labor leader Amir Peretz and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz
The decision by Labor and Meretz to run together on a single list in the March 2 elections is significant and could have broad ramifications across the political spectrum.
Although Labor leader Amir Peretz had initially openly opposed a merger with Meretz – headed by Nitzan Horowitz – he managed to bite the bullet. With this move, Peretz might have saved the Labor Party – with its long history, tradition and internationally recognized trademark name – from extinction.
The move was not an easy one. Labor had already joined with the Gesher list led by Orly Levy-Abecassis ahead of the last election in an effort, which paid off, to pass the electoral threshold. Levy-Abecassis is a former member of Yisrael Beytenu who leans to the Right on diplomatic issues even while building her political career by focusing on the social welfare issues traditionally associated with the Left.
Meretz also found itself in an awkward position. On the one hand, polls showed that it too faced a real possibility of not making it into the next Knesset without uniting. On the other hand, it too had already formed a political union with Democratic Union, leaving several candidates unlikely to succeed in gaining a realistic spot on the new list.
Benny Gantz and the leadership of Blue and White should be breathing a sigh of relief at the formation of the new bloc on the Left. Although polls currently show that neither Gantz nor Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed in coming up with the necessary 61 MKs to ensure a stable, majority coalition, the Labor-Meretz merger ensures that minimal votes on the Left will be wasted. In particular, if Blue and White signs a surplus vote agreement with Labor-Meretz, it will mean that one party or the other will be able to benefit from ballots that might otherwise not be enough for an extra seat.
In an election, every vote should count. This is especially true when it is the third election in rapid succession. Allowing large numbers of votes to be squandered would only further underscore the problem with the current electoral process that has led to the situation in which the country finds itself.
Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right and Orly Levy-Abecassis’s Gesher, were among those which failed to cross the 3.25% threshold last April. Levy-Abecassis learned her lesson. Whether Bennett and Shaked have fully internalized the situation is uncertain. The Arab parties also learned the hard way in April that they needed to run on one list despite their vast differences. Blue and White itself is an amalgamation of three parties and an independent candidate.
It remains to be seen exactly what lists and what line-ups will be submitted to the Central Elections Committee ahead of Wednesday’s midnight deadline, but the single slate formed by Labor and Meretz will already change the map.
There is very little consolation to be found in having three elections within a year but at least it offers a chance to fix previous failings. One of the most obvious problems with the last two rounds of elections was the high number of smaller parties that ran.
The splits and splintered parties do not bring about political stability. It achieves the opposite, making it more difficult for a government to be formed and for a prime minister to remain in power.
As we have seen before, this means that whoever is chosen to create the new government is more reliant on smaller parties that end up with disproportionate power, enabling them to determine policy through coalition deal-making even if they represent a minority of voters.
The greater number of parties might present an illusion of democratic plurality, but ultimately they prepare the way for political blackmail.
Having larger blocs is not just beneficial within the coalition. An opposition cannot be effective if it is unable to unite and provide a credible political alternative and challenge to the ruling coalition.
The parties on the Right would be wise put aside their egos and differences and find a way to run together.
When it comes to the number of political parties running in the elections for the 23rd Knesset, more is not necessarily merrier.