JERUSALEM (Oct. 17)
The Knesset took a modest step toward electoral reform Monday by passing into law a private member’s bill that almost doubles the number of votes a party needs to enter parliament.
In a measure that sailed through the house by a vote of 68-11, the so-called “threshold” was raised from 1 to 1.5 percent of the total votes cast in national elections.
The measure is intended to eliminate tiny splinter parties. Small factions of similar ideology are expected to merge into a single party to improve their chances of Knesset representation.
In absolute numbers, the new threshold in the next elections is likely to be 40,000 votes. The last time voters went to the polls in 1988 it was 22,000. But the electorate has since grown.
Proposals for a higher threshold were fiercely opposed by most of the small parties, which threatened to withdraw their support from either the Likud or Labor blocs.
Meanwhile, the fate of more meaningful reform remains uncertain.
Four private bills calling for the direct election of the prime minister have passed the committee stage. Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky announced Monday that he would combine them in a single measure to be brought to the floor for the mandatory second and third readings.
But the idea has encountered opposition within Likud, where until recently it had broad support. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has expressed strong reservations about changing the present system.