Bill to increase electoral threshold passes preliminary vote

Bill to increase electoral threshold passes preliminary vote

60 MKs back new legislation that also limits cabinet size, changes requirements for no-confidence motions; opposition members walk out

Illustrative picture of the Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative picture of the Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A new bill that seeks to raise a political party’s electoral threshold from 2 percent to 4 percent, limit the size of the cabinet and raise the Knesset vote requirement for a no-confidence motion that can topple the sitting government was passed in a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday.

After a stormy session, 60 MKs voted for the bill, while 44 opposed it. Sixteen Knesset members were not present when the voting took place. Most opposition members left the Knesset plenum immediately after the vote, dryly calling on those who supported the legislation to stay with their “anti-democratic bill.”

MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid), the initiator of the bill, said Wednesday: “Over the past 15 years, every 2 and a half years or so, the country spent billions on elections, and those elected promptly stopped working for the public and worked only for themselves. Twelve health ministers in 15 years — how can we run a country like that? This bill will ensure that we can run a country here. It’s balanced and reasonable.”

MK Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) criticized the bill, warning those who voted for it that they would end up regretting it. “It makes no sense to pass a bill like this, with underhanded opportunism. We will fight against this bill using everything at our disposal. The Knesset’s honor is important to us, democracy is important to us. We will pay a terrible price [for this bill],” said Herzog.

The proposed raise, from 2% to 4%, of the electoral threshold — the minimum percentage of eligible votes nationwide that a party must clear in order to win Knesset representation — would endanger the prospects of smaller parties like Meretz, United Torah Judaism and all of the Arab parties, theoretically strengthening the bargaining position of larger parties.

The new bill would also see no more than 18 ministers (not including the prime minister) and four deputy ministers in a given government. Each minister would be responsible for a single ministry, and not, as is often the practice today, for a handful of ministries that add up to a position that a single individual cannot meaningfully fill. The current government has 21 ministers (not including the prime minister) and eight deputy ministers overseeing 30 ministerial portfolios.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill. “This bill balances the important principles of stable governance and a strengthened democracy,” its initiator Hoffman said Sunday. “Since the bill anchors [in law] the arrangements reached in the coalition agreement” — and therefore would likely enjoy the support of the majority coalition — “I believe the bill can pass into law in the current session, before the end of July.”

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