Bills Recommending Proportional Election System Defeated in Knesset

A joint Mapai-General Zionist bid to pass a bill changing the present nationwide proportional representation election system into a British-American type of constituency voting collapsed today in Knesset.

All other parties, both supporters and foes of the Mapai-led coalition Government, fought the bid out of fears that such a changeover would virtually eliminate all minor parties while elevating Mapai to dominant status and making the General Zionists the dominant opposition party.

Originally, two bills were presented. A Mapai-sponsored bill would have elected 100 members of Knesset on a constituency basis. This bill was defeated by a 58 to 42 vote. The General Zionists then offered a compromise measure to provide for election of 90 Knesset members on a constituency basis and 30 on a proportional representation basis. This bill was beaten by a 58 to 11 tally.

The Knesset presidium then rejected a Mapai-General Zionist proposal that votes on both bills be combined. The voting indicated that opposition to the electoral changes depended on a four vote margin, a fact reaffirmed in the voting on a bill by Achdut Avodah, one of the smaller parties, which would make electoral changes even more difficult than they are at present. The Achdut Avodah bill was approved in first reading yesterday by a 58 to 53 vote.

Premier David Ben Gurion, speaking in the Knesset as a member of the Mapai, insisted that Parliament should consist of a government party and an opposition group which would offer a responsible alternative to the ruling party. There is no need for representation for every shade of political opinion in Parliament, he said, because Israel has a free press.

Recognizing France as a friend of Israel, the Premier spurned the French example of Parliamentary democracy, asserting that the only stable democratic system was that in existence in the English-speaking countries. He was interrupted by shouts of “what about Scandinavia?”

Though it was a foregone conclusion that the Reform bill would be beaten, proponents of the measure felt that they had scored in that the Knesset’s debate had aroused nationwide interest in the question of electoral reform. The Mapai promised to make this one of the major issues of the forthcoming national election campaign.

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