Knesset passes Governance Law

The Knesset seat electoral threshold will rise to 3.25%.

The Knesset plenum today passed in the second and third readings the Governance Law. Despite the boycott by the opposition, the coalition voted this morning on the first of the bills that caused a parliamentary storm - the law to raise the electoral threshold for a Knesset seat to 3.25% of total votes and to limit the number of ministers. The law will come into effect with the next Knesset.

The vote was 67:0, because of the opposition boycott. Opposition MKs who did not enter the plenum to vote, continued to hold an alternative debate in a separate auditorium. Following the vote on the Governance Law, the Knesset plenum began the debate on the equal service bill. A vote is scheduled for tomorrow.

Yisrael Beitenu chairman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman presented the Governance Law from the dais and described the opposition's conduct as "whining hypocrisy". "When I look at the enlightened world, at the electoral threshold, we are not inventing something unacceptable. In Austria, Norway, and Sweden, the electoral threshold is 4%. In New Zealand, Slovakia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, the electoral threshold is 5%. We have a lower electoral threshold than the norm in the enlightened world," he said.

"This is an important law for Yisrael Beitenu. We are talking about allowing the government to lead a clear agenda. The government must be allowed to work, to take decisions, and not to be constantly engaged in strengthening the coalition. That is why this is an excellent law as far as we are concerned," he added.

At the start of the Likud-Beitenu faction meeting at the Knesset this morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Governance Law "is an important law that raises the electoral threshold and improves governance. In my opinion, more steps are needed, which will have to be carried out later on. Israel needs a strong and stable government and governance, and less fragmented political parties. From this perspective, this is a law for which we have been waiting for many years."

The Governance Law raises the electoral threshold from 2% of total votes cast under current law, below which a party will not obtain representation in the Knesset. The original bill sought to raise the electoral threshold to 4%, but during the discussion, and with the consent of most of the members of the coalition, it was lowered to 3.25%. The Governance Law will mainly affect the Arab parties and Hadash, which polls indicate do not have enough support to enter the Knesset. These parties are now considering their next steps and whether to petition the High Court of Justice to cancel the law, or to submit a law to reverse the Governance Law.

Another section of the Governance Law limits the number of ministers to 19 (including the prime minister), eliminates the post of minister without portfolio, and caps the number of deputy ministers to four. However, it is possible to appoint more ministers by a vote of 70 MKs.

The Governance Law eliminates the option permitted by current law that allows seven MKs to split from their faction, even if they do not constitute a third of it. The law states that an MK can leave his faction if it decides to merge with another faction, but that this MK must join a different faction. The party financing budget in this case will only go to a faction with at least two MKs.

The Governance Law also states that an MK seeking a no-confidence vote in the government must propose an alternative government and nominate a prime minister and ministers. The parties seeking a no-confidence vote must also state the guidelines of the proposed alternative government. The new government will take office immediately after the Knesset plenum votes in favor of the no-confidence vote and for the new government in a single vote.

As for the state budget, the Governance Law states that the government may spend 1/12 of the actual budget, including changes made in the budget during the previous year, and not just on the basis of the original budget law. Each month, the Ministry of Finance must publish government spending for the period in which the government is operating without an approved budget. The law also allows the new government 100 days to approve a new budget, instead of the current 45 days.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) lambasted the decision to raise the electoral threshold. "The public should know that a high electoral threshold will be a major barrier for entering the Knesset, and will turn it into a closed club against new forces that are not supported by the tycoons and the rich. Wasted votes will also increase; as history shows, when the electoral threshold is raised, the number of ballots that are thrown into the trash increases.

"The Knesset will not only become less representative, but also less legitimate. In this situation, the public's lack of confidence in politics will only grow, and the problem non-participation in politics in Israel will worsen."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 11, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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