MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) told Ynet on Monday that he had received the green light from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote a direct election for PM bill. Karhi insists his bill would solve the current political crisis, whereby no MK has been able to forge a majority coalition government after two consecutive elections.
The Karhi bill starts with normal elections, without a direct vote for the post of prime minister. However, should no major party leader is able to form a government and the Knesset is dissipated, there will be direct elections for the leaders of the major parties only. And then, the winner will receive an additional 10% of parliamentary power, meaning an additional 12 MKs at the expense of the rest of the Knesset factions.
At first glance, Karhi’s idea looks as democratic as Pyongyang, but then – isn’t the 3.2% threshold vote also undemocratic? Democracies on occasion must take tyrannical steps to remain democratic.
In early November, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri proposed swift elections for prime minister between Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu – believing the voters would favor Bibi. But things may have changed after AG Avichai Mandelblit announced the criminal charges against Netanyahu.
Between 1996 and 2001, Israel held three direct elections for PM. The Direct Election Law allowed many people who previously voted for the party whose leader they favored for prime minister—either of the two major parties—to now put in a yellow ballot for their choice for prime minister and a second ballot for the party that more closely reflected their worldview or social sector. This resulted in weakening the elected prime minister, who found himself heading a relatively small party and being forced to give up more in coalition negotiations. This is why Prime Minister Ariel Sharon killed the direct vote in 2001, on the day he introduced his new government.
The Karhi bill seemingly does not anticipate a situation whereby more than two major parties emerge, possibly through parliamentary maneuvering. Theoretically, Liberman’s party could unite with the Zionist right and Shas to be able to claim a spot in the PM race, possibly resulting in the toppling of both Netanyahu and Gantz.