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Severe Fight Foreseen in Knesset over Bill on Electoral System

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The Legal Committee of the Israel Parliament approved today an electoral bill which would keep in effect the present system of proportional representation. The Mapai deputies on the committee immediately announced they would submit a minority amendment calling for American-style constituency voting when the bill is debated in the Knesset next Tuesday.

These two announcements set the stage for what may be one of the most significant parliamentary debates in Israel’s ten year history. Premier David Ben Gurion, long an advocate of the division of the country into 120 constituencies with Knesset members chosen locally on the basis of a plurality in the district, will be in the forefront of the battle. When the vote comes, it will be a roll call ballot with individuals expected to cut across party lines in their votes, The alarmed opposition–virtually every party in or out of the government–has summoned back to Israel deputies who are traveling abroad.

Under the present arrangement, the entire country is a single district and the 120 seats in the Knesset are distributed in proportion to the votes received nationally by the ten political parties. The Prime Minister has argued that only a local election system can create a two-party system which he believes Israel needs and which is opposed by all parties except the General Zionists. Such a change would force the merger or elimination of most of the present parties.

The stage was set for a vote on the changeover when Baruch Azzania, Mapai deputy, submitted a constituency amendments a minor bill related to the next national elections. The General Zionists thereupon submitted a modified amendment which called for the creation of 90 local districts with the remaining 30 seats to be distributed on the present proportional basis.

The Azzania amendment is expected to be defeated and strategy then calls for the Mapai deputies to vote for the General Zionist amendment, the two parties providing a total of 58 votes or three short of a majority. If some deputies of the opposing parties are absent or abstain, while all Mapai and General Zionist deputies are present and vote affirmatively, the General Zionist amendment might become law.

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