Monday, November 26, 2012

Party primaries in Israel, democracy at work or a big joke?

Yesterday I voted in the Likud primaries and I have to say it is a big joke. There is nothing remotely democratic about it.

The way the system works is that every voter has to pick a list of candidates that they want to serve in the Knesset. In the Likud voting yesterday every voter had to pick 12 national candidates. There are a number of glaring problems with the system:

1. There is no ranking. Everyone you pick is equal. Imagine you have a few candidates you think are really worthy so you vote for them. Now you have to vote for another bunch of candidates just so your ballot is valid. In other words, your vote for some Joe Shmo as your 12th pick who you know nothing about counts as much as your number 1 pick. Just to be clear, you HAD to vote for 12 candidates for your vote to be registered.
2. You end up voting for people that you never heard of and know nothing about. What ends up happening is that every serious candidate makes up lists of recommended people and that is who people vote for even though you have no idea who half the people are.
3. There are all kinds of deals and revenge lists. Every serious candidate has workers at every polling station giving out their recommended list of who to vote for. Every person that I saw at the polls (including myself) had a printed list with 12 numbers (the people to vote for). The system lends itself to gross manipulation by organized groups.

This is not just a problem with the Likud. All of the parties with primaries (which is not too many) have basically the same system because they all need to pick a list of people for the Knesset..

It is clear that the only solution is a district based system where every MK is elected from a district and then you can have district based primaries.

I have a few posts about election reform from a few years ago, unfortunately there has been a lot of talk but no action.

The electoral system in Israel is broken ...
Election reform in Israel


Ben Waxman said...

democratic theory (at least madison in the federalist papers, one of the most basic works on democracy) recognizes the existence of pressure groups. any group has the right to organize and work to further their goals. do you decry the existence of the jewish vote in the US? so why get upset that chaiam katz was able to organize aircraft industry workers? i will note that madison assumed that competing groups would balance out things and ensure that no one group can get too much power.

having to vote for 12 candidates is a bug in the system; it doesn't pasul the system.

no system is flawless. regional voting brings with it things like gerrymandering and pork barrel (or in israel beef barrel) politics. you want to see useless building projects in afula? change the system so that afula has its own rep in the knesset.

btw - i didn't have a list.

bluke said...

No system is flawless, but the current system seems to me to be very flawed. Did you really make an informed decision for all of your 12 choices? Does it make sense that you can't rank your preferences?

IMHO one of the biggest problems in Israeli politics is that there is zero accountability and no one represents you.

Any regional system would have to be set up so that there is no gerrymandering, clear rules on how districts are created and non-political commissions creating them (see Iowa in the US for a success story)

bluke said...

The specific case of Chaim Katz is very troubling for a number of reasons:
1. There is definitely an element of coercion in terms of who to vote for
2. There is a conflict of interest in being an MK and head of the union.

Ben Waxman said...

regional elections and primaries are not connected. the us has regional elections and primaries. if you want to get rid of primaries, you still need some method of choosing candidates.

the likud's rules are (IMO) better than the mafdal's. and yes, it makes complete sense to me that we didn't rank. if choosing a candadite is hard enough, ranking them is simply one more factor.

as for informed choices - with the exception of one candidate who i chose simply because of his ethnicity, the rest were based on real reasons.

the real problem that i have with your post is your declaration that the primaries were not democratic. i seriously doubt that most voters in the US could show how their votes are informed choices, even when talking about the presidential election. but that doesn't make the elections non-democratic. it means that people aren't thinking about their choices, that's it.

bluke said...

There is a connection between regional elections and sane primaries. With regional elections in the US you choose 1 candidate in the primaries. With the list based system here you are forced to choose a large number of candidates which makes it very hard to make real informed choices.

I am pretty sure that you are the exception. Everyone I talked to at the polls was basically voting for 1 or 2 people and then filling in the rest based on someone's list.

Elections in the PA, Egypt, etc, were "democratic" according to your definition as well. My comment was more to the point that because of the system most people are not making informed choices.

Ben Waxman said...

i don't know about egpyt but i have never heard that elections in the PA were not held properly. in fact,i've heard the opposite.

i hasten to add that elections alone do not make a country democratic.

Ben Waxman said...

PS: were a person to only make one choice, the people directing things, the chaim katzes and moshe feiglins, could still do it, just like american unions and churches push certain candidates. people wouldn't have to take a piece of paper into the booth but that is a detail.