Friday, March 3, 2006

Gerrymandering and related issues

I'd like to thank my ebuddy, Boris, from cold Canada, for bringing the Jerusalem Post article about Bibi's proposal to change our electoral system to my attention.

Bibi's campaigning hard to return to the position of Prime Minister. I think he has matured as a leader since his last turn, but this district business has my antennas buzzing.

I know that many immigrants feel disoriented in Israel's system of proportional representation, which encourages a multitude of political parties centered on ideology and personality. Forming coalitions to rule is more difficult than table planning at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, when most of the relatives are feuding.

It's not quite as bad as it once was, since the minimum percentage to be represented has gone up quite a bit. That causes other problems like that of wasted votes, since the votes to the parties which didn't get enough aren't counted or added to any other party. Today it's much harder to start a new political party, since the chances of passing the "threshold" are much lower. It used to be that you just needed enough for one seat out of the one hundred and twenty.

Israeli society isn't the two party type. England has three strong parties, when you add up the popular vote, but in terms of parliament representation, the third party is hardly represented. Does that truly show the will of the people?

But my main reason for opposing districts is that there is an "art" to drawing them. One can control the results by concentrating supporters of specific parties in some districts and marginalizing them in others. It's called gerrymandering. There's another aspect to gerrymandering, and it involves population density. It's very common for rural districts to have far fewer voters than urban districts, even though the rural ones are much, much larger in terms of actual size. This means that the country voters' voice is much stronger than his city counterpart.

A few years ago, district representation was tried in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem as a "neighborhood council." I don't know what its status is now, but at that time they came up with a perfect example of gerrymandering. The municipality decided that representation was by buildings. The only "problem" was that the private homes were mostly inhabited by the secular and the multi-family structures had more of the religious population. The aim was to reduce the power of the religious. Fair? Democratic? No way.

So, sorry, Bibi, your latest ploy is just convincing me more and more that we're not on the same track.

This is what I wrote to the Jerusalem Post in response to the article:

Mr. Netanyahu went to U.S. public schools when I did. I learned all about gerrymandering, the art of drawing electoral districts to distort the "will of the people."That means, to control results. I'd hate to think how Israeli politicians will bring to even greater heights or depths this perverse skill that negates the only advantage of democracy.


Anonymous said...

In Germany, there are both systems; one proportional, and one representative.

Kadima will be aiming to change the parliamentry system to presidential.

In any case, 'democracy' is another goyish invention which we've proven isn't for Israel.

Batya, I'm not 'American' (phew! :-), but I also picked up a few things while living in Canada.

If you go to vote and purposely damage your ballot, it is not wasting your vote, it is a legitimate democratic protest.

There's no such thing as a wasted vote unless you sit at home. THAT'S wasting your vote.

Why dhould I vote for Mafdal-Ichud leumi? That would make me a hypocrite. Their platform supports autonomy for Yesha Arabs and joining coalition governments that support more expulsions.

Batya said...

Damaging your ballot makes you look foolish and is, but if you really can't stomach NUNRP, then go Merzel. Maybe he will get in, but at least you show that NUNRP is too "center."

Anonymous said...

I'm saying that there's enough for everyone to get into the knesset and make a real right-wing gush - Mazrel's party and even Kleiner's party too. Do you know how many secular right wingers are voting for Lieberman because Moledet has apparently turned into a religious party? These are lost votes - Lieberman supports trading land, and plenty over other 'hazarai' like civil marriages, trief food, etc... But they've been convinced that voting for Kleiner is wasting their vote.

Why would a secular person vote for Ichud Leumi? Instead he'll go Likud.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Prof. Eidelberg is promoting the district idea, if I am not mistaken, because it CAN be deployed in such a way to limit the Arab representation in Knesset, and so that even a candidate from a mostly Arab area will have some Jews in his district to whom he'll have to cater. Interesting, no?

Batya said...

Kleiner's a wasted vote totally. Those who just CAN'T vote NUNRP should just concentrate on one other party, or too many votes will be lost.

Eidelberg's making a real mistake, playing with fire, if he thinks that davka he will be able to control the districts. Honestly, what political power and influence does he have?

Shamir thought that he could control the Madrid Conference.

You can't play footsie with the devil without getting burnt.

And never forget that Begin's rationale behind giving away the Sinai to Egypt and destroying its communities was to "save Judea and Samaria." Many of the Gush Katif communities destroyed in Disengagement were the ones to compensate Camp David.