The electoral system in Israel is broken ...
and needs to be scrapped. It just does not work for many reasons. Some of the things can be fixed but many cannot. Here are some of the problems:
- No one actually represents you in the Knesset. There is no one MK the average person can turn to if they have a problem. MK's are chosen in various different ways, but unless you are active in party politics you have no representation.
- The Knesset is based on a list based system. You vote for a party not for any specific people. Yet once in the Knesset an MK can do whatever he wants including taking his seat and creating a new party as Sharon and the Likud MK's did. That is a complete and utter perversion of the democratic process. None of them were elected, the Likud was elected and therefore the seat should not be theirs.
- There are too many small parties. Since elections are on a national basis, anyone who can get 2.5% of the vote (and in the past it was even less) is in the Knesset. This makes every government unstable and at the mercy of extortion by small 1 issue parties.
- MK's are chosen in various ways most of which are undemocratic. Kadima is clearly undemocratic, 1 man is deciding the list. But even the Labor party which has primaries is not really democratic for the following reasons:
- Various people are protected, for example, the 6th spot is reserved for a woman, the 9th spot for this person etc.
- A primary in which 90 people run and you have to pick among them is a bit silly. It is very hard for the average voter to rank 90 candidates, in fact to even know what all the 90 candidates stand for and therefore, the vote is not that relevant.
I believe that Israel needs to make a large percentage of the Knesset seats district based. Create 90 districts (3/4 of the Knesset) and have 1 MK represent a district (and impose a residency requirement). The other 30 seats would be allocated based on the current system but with a much higher threshold like 10%. This would allow the large parties to have their leaders protected and be able to devote themselves to the larger picture while still enabling every one to have a representative. Alternatively, adopt the British system where every seat is district based. The advantages of this plan are:
- Every person has a representative that they can turn to
- This would eliminate many of the smaller parties
- Anyone could run to be an MK from a district
- The MK's would need to be more responsive to the needs of people not from their group in society. Imagine a district with a sizable Charedi population (20%). Whoever would represnt that district would need to take the Charedim into account, their support could swing the election. We might actually get a chiloni represnting Charedi interests in the Knesset and vice versa. It would create a lot more understanding and a lot less posturing.
The other alternative is a Presidention system like the US. I am against that for 1 simple reason. if you look around the world, presidential regimes often turn into dictatorships, the President ends up being much more powerful then the legislature and dominates. On the other hand, there has never been a parliamentary democracy that become a dictatorship, it simply can't happen because the Prime Minister is just an MK.
The bottom line is that the system in Israel is utterly broken and needs to be changed. Unfortunately, there are many people with vested interests in the current system which will make it very difficult to change. Sharon could have pulled it off (and wanted to change the system), I don't know if anyone else has the power or even the will.