Knesset gives initial okay to bill limiting no-confidence votes

Opposition MKs call legislation, which would also raise electoral threshold, undemocratic and dictatorial

The Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

During a heated session Wednesday the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading a bill to place limitations on the submission of votes of no confidence, thereby rendering governments less vulnerable to the opposition.

The bill passed with 51 MKs in favor and 43 against, among them MK Reuven Rivlin, despite the fact that his own Likud party supports the legislation. The new law would require at least 61 out of 120 MKs to support a no-confidence vote.

The bill also seeks to raise the electoral threshold to four percent of the general population — up from 2% — putting small parties, including the Arab lists, at a disadvantage. It also limits the number of ministers that can serve in a government to 19 and calls for a maximum of four deputy ministers.

As Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem tried to introduce the bill, he was heckled by those who oppose it as undemocratic.

“[Former prime minister] Menachem Begin will be turning in his grave,” declared Rivlin, who served as Knesset speaker in the previous government. “This is the elimination of democracy. The destruction of the Knesset. They will yet add another clause that any minister who disagrees with the law will be expelled from the Knesset.”

Leader of the opposition MK Shelly Yachimovich stressed her party’s outright rejection of the proposed changes in the law that, she said, mocked the Knesset.

“It is arrogant, brutal, dictatorial, and hypocritical,” the Labor leader raged. “Have you no shame? Even a little self-respect.”

The Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored bill was introduced last Wednesday by Rotem to applause from his Knesset faction. Members of the opposition, however, were quick to criticize the motion for being “dictatorial” in granting large parties excess power while stripping small parties of their say.

“This is an important proposal, which will once and for all put to rest the political antics that are simply a waste of precious labor and legislation in public life, and do not help citizens in any way,” Rotem said Monday. “In addition, we will create a mechanism that hinders the splitting of factions in the Knesset.”

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted in favor of the bill on Monday.

Those who support the bill argue that it will help stem the flow ofno-confidence votes that are regularly brought before the Knesset by assorted MKs. If it is passed, no-confidence motions will require at least 61 members of Knesset to be signatories, and the submitters will have to propose an alternate coalition. If they are unable to form a new government, the bill stipulates, the existing government will remain in power.

Rivlin, who labeled the bill as “the mark of Cain on the Likud,” suggested introducing regulations that limit the total number of no-confidence votes that can be brought per month or fortnight instead.

After introducing the bill last Wednesday, Rotem, who heads the Knesset Constitution Committee, said the legislation would enable the government to work more effectively. The government and the prime minister shouldn’t be subjected to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans,” he said.

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