web analytics
May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Are Small Parties Good for Democracy?

Netanyahu in the Knesset

Today, Israel has thirteen officially recognized parties represented in the Knesset, with an unofficial fourteenth party consisting only of Chaim Amsalem, who is officially from Shas. The largest parties in the Knesset are Kadima with 28 seats and Likud with 27 seats. Together the two largest parties own 55 seats, representing just 45 percent of the Knesset.

In the 1981 elections Menachem Begin’s Likud won 48 seats, compared to the Alignment (predecessor of the Labor party) under Shimon Peres, which came in second place with 47. These two parties occupied 95 seats of the Knesset’s 120. With almost eighty percent of the votes cast representing just two parties it was the closest Israel has ever come to a two-party system. In total, ten parties passed the required 1% threshold to win at least a single seat. The third largest party was the National Religious Party with six seats.

The larger parties have been troubled by their shrinking numbers. In addition, having numerous parties represented in Knesset has resulted in difficulties forming coalition governments after elections. Kadima conducted a private poll about electoral reform prior to the 2009 elections and found that most Israelis want electoral reform but disagree on the type. Kadima’s solution was to campaign on electoral reform but not disclose exactly what type of reform that would be.

There have since been many proposals for electoral reform from various parties. The goal of the proposals has typically been to reduce the number of parties and thus facilitate the coalition process. The latest measure presented came from Prime Minister Netanyahu, who established a coalition committee to discuss changing the electoral system. The main reason given for the formation of the committee was that too many small parties are bad for democracy. Netanyahu explained that since the leading party is a minority in its coalition they cannot govern properly, and steps need to be taken to change that. Among the measures being considered are raising the threshold for a party to enter Knesset, currently at 2%, to perhaps as high as 5%, or 6 seats. This would be the third time the threshold would be raised since Israel’s establishment. Eight of the current Knesset’s thirteen parties have 5 or fewer seats.

A recent poll showed that in 2009 55% of Israeli voters in the 18-35 age bracket voted for small parties. While young voters are embracing the smaller parties, those parties will likely need to merge in the event the threshold is raised. But are small parties really bad for democracy, as Netanyahu charged?

The answer lies in how you define democracy. Is Democracy a form of government in which all citizens have a representative say in the decisions that affect their lives or is democracy achieved when only large groups have that say. If you agree with the former, raising the threshold of votes required for a party to enter the Knesset would be undemocratic. According to the latter it would be undemocratic not to raise the threshold.

Thirty years ago Shulamit Aloni entered the Knesset with 1% of the vote as the lone representative of the Ratz party, the predecessor of Meretz, which reached a high of 12 seats in 1992. Since then the threshold has been raised twice. The latest parties to lose out were the Green party, which received 1.5% of the vote, and the Green Leaf party, which received 1.3% of the vote, in the 2006 elections.

A common criticism of Israel’s current style of government is that nothing ever gets done. What it offers, though, is that when something does get done usually a majority of Israelis agree with it. Those who preach electoral reform feel minority groups shouldn’t have such a powerful say in a democracy. Those who oppose it feel the minorities’ representation is what makes Israel a democracy.

Will the system ever be changed? How will the new system work? We don’t know yet. Geographic voting districts could eliminate the smaller parties, but determining how to divide up those districts would raise a whole new set of issues. Electoral reform will continue to be discussed, but I expect only a small increase in the threshold. Smaller parties will probably merge and one day some might surpass the current larger parties. In the meantime, the larger parties should examine why they are losing their voters instead of forcing the smaller parties to merge.

About the Author: Jeremy Saltan is a frequent guest on various radio programs and and a veteran political analyst. He has run political campaigns in English and Hebrew for Israeli municipality, party institution, primary and general elections. Jeremy’s opinion pieces have been published, quoted or credited by Voice of America, Daily Beast, France 24, Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Israel National News and the Jewish Press and more.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Are Small Parties Good for Democracy?”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat being carried in a rally last winter.
PLO Blows Up Netanyahu’s ‘Peace Process’ Renewal
Latest Indepth Stories
Abbas and Obama

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel to on peace process

Ronal Shoval Voting

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Ayelet Shaked

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

Tel Aviv University Insignia

Ronen Shamir’s just the latest tenured Leftist convicted of sexual misconduct with his own student

NY Times precious front page ink is only reserved for portrayals of Israel as the aggressor.

Although I loved law school, I doubted myself: Who would come to me, a chassidish woman lawyer?

American Jews who go gaga for Obama are first and foremost “Liberals of the Mosaic Persuasion”

“Illinois is the first state to take concrete, legally binding action against the BDS campaign”

Many books have supported the preferability- not to be confused with desirability- of the status quo

Consider the Pope’s desperation, reading daily reports of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims

The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR

Pentecost, derived from the Greek word for 50, is celebrated 50 days after Easter.

U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse

More Articles from Jeremy Saltan
Benjamin Netanyahu

For Lapid to successfully challenge Netanyahu, he will need to find the right time for a strategic exit from the government.

The right of center parties continue to maintain their lead, albeit by a slightly smaller margin in eight polls released December 9-15.

Knesset Jeremy Weekly Average #8 (week of Nov 25-Dec 1) of 7 polls (Channel 10, Globes, Knesset Channel, Channel 2, Yisrael Hayom, Yediot Ahronont, Channel 1). Current Knesset seats in [brackets], Week 7 average in (brackets) 37.5 (38.0) [42] Likud Beytenu 19.2 (21.4) [08] Labor 11.7 (11.8) [10] Shas 9.8 (9.5) [05] Jewish Home-Tekuma 8.0 […]

The average of 2 polls published last week, Channel 2 and Jerusalem Post. The Post poll was conducted November 12-13 and the Channel 2 poll was published November 14.

This week’s average shows Likud Beitenu and Labor position similar to last week. Shas gains and takes the third position while Lapid’s Yesh Atid drops and falls into the fourth position. Hadash passes Meretz, while Kadima and Independence pick up gains. Am Shalem is also picking up steam. The right block gains ground this week with the help of Shas and Am Shalem’s gains.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/knesset/knesset-corner/are-small-parties-good-for-democracy/2012/01/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: