New Cabinet Agrees That Reform of Electoral System is Essential

Reformation of Israel’s electoral system was a prime topic at the first meeting of the new Cabinet Sunday.

It may be the only major issue on which the Likud bloc and the Labor Party agree.

The issue was significantly muted while both of them ardently courted the Orthodox parties. Likud also went after the small right-wing factions in the hope of speedily forming a narrow based government.

The small parties fear reform, since it could spell their doom. But now, with a broad coalition finally in place, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has publicly pledged reform.

In Israel Radio interviews over the weekend, he expressed support for constituent district representation. Votes would be cast for individual candidates instead of for party lists, whose members are now seated in the Knesset on the basis of proportional representation.

Shamir also advocated direct election of the prime minister by popular vote. At present, mayors are the only popularly elected officials.

Under Shamir’s plan, the prime minister would be free to appoint his own ministers without needing to allocate portfolios to parties forming the parliamentary coalition.

The ministerial committee is called for in the Likud-Labor coalition agreement. It states that if the committee does not come up with proposals within a year, each of the parties will offer their own ideas.

LIKUD REFORM BILL PLANNED

Two Likud Knesset members, Uzi Landau and Binyamin Netanyahu, announced they will soon introduce a reform bill. Another Likud Knesset member, David Magen, will chair a committee to study various proposals for reform.

Sources close to the prime minister say he feels the post-election negotiations have become “intolerable.”

The reforms proposed to eliminate proportional representation would eliminate the smaller parties, unless they were able to unite into medium-sized parties.

The threshold for Knesset representation would be raised to at least 2.5 percent of the vote cast. Until now it has been about 1 percent. Any party that can accumulate some 20,000 votes rates a seat in the parliament.

The Orthodox parties, whose constituents are concentrated in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, probably would be hurt most by a constituency election system, since they would be unlikely to win seats outside these areas.

It took seven weeks from election day Nov. 1 to form the present government. The next elections should lead to the immediate formation of a government, Shamir said.

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