A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party filed a law bill Sunday aimed at politically taking over the Central Election Committee, but quickly withdrew it when it was met with a swift and strong backlash.
The bill, submitted by MK Eliyahu Revivo, would determine that the committee chairman — currently a Supreme Court justice appointed by the top court’s president — will be appointed by the Knesset speaker and the committee, and won’t be a sitting or former judge.
The committee oversees the entire process of elections in Israel, ensuring they are carried out in an orderly, fair and legal fashion. It approves the lists of candidates, prepares all the voting booths and stations and the equipment and employees manning them, ensures every citizen has a way to vote, tallies the votes and announces the results.
Most of the committee members are political, representing the factions of the sitting or outgoing Knesset.
Explaining his bill, Revivo wrote that the current situation poses “a conflict of interest in which a Supreme Court justice chairs it while also being the de facto colleague of the High Court justices who deal with petitions against committee decisions.”
Revivo claimed his proposal would “strengthen democracy.”
But the bill drew an immediate outcry from critics who said that having a political appointee chair the panel, instead of a judge, would politicize the process of elections and severely undermine the democratic process.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, a staunch critic of the government’s plan to overhaul the justice system, said: “Now Likud are trying to take over the Central Elections Committee. Why beat around the bush? They should announce that from now on there are no elections in Israel unless they win, and get this over with.”
Criticism came even from Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, who is spearheading the judicial overhaul plan.
“In my eyes, there is no need to touch the makeup of the Central Elections Committee, this is counter-productive,” Rothman said.
Revivo ended up withdrawing his bill and freezing it merely an hour after announcing it, saying he was doing it at the request of coalition whip Ofir Katz, also of Likud.
He said he believed in his bill but that “as a team player within the Likud faction and in order to prevent conspiracy theories by the opposition, I have decided to withdraw the law.”