Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Go Back to True Proportional Representation

Israel's's Knesset, parliament, has 120 members elected in a sort of proportional way.  Well it is proportional in that we don't have districts. But a large portion of voters lose their votes, because the trend in recent years has been to raise the minimum threshold so there won't be a very small party of one member and those with two are already rare. There are politicians who want to raise the threshold even more.

I'm one of those voters whose vote was washed away, because my favored party didn't get the minimum needed.  We weren't short by all that much.  In the old way of counting, they would have gotten in with two representatives or at least one.  Actually, in the previous minimum threshold they would have probably gotten three MKs.  How's that?  That's because many people didn't vote for the party I did, because they thought that it would be a "wasted vote." That became a self-fulfilling prophecy. There were not doubts in the polls that they could have gotten in on the old law.

So, I'm among those who wish we could turn back the clock.

Hat tip: Rafi's Life in Israel
The minimum threshold for Knesset had been adjusted a number of times over the years, eventually being raised to the current 2%, and recently attempts were made to bump it up to 4%. It is thought that raising the threshold would make the government more stable by ridding the government of small parties that end up wielding more power than they should naturally have, giving them the ability to make "unreasonable" demands.
MK Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) just proposed a bill by which the threshold would move in the opposite direction. Litzman would do away with the threshold entirely. Litzman believes, it seems, in evolution and natural selection, and believes that the natural threshold would do a better job at keeping the government stable and small parties out.
Litzman says that the threshold should be natural - take all the valid votes from the elections, divide by 120 (number of Knesset seats), and whichever parties garnered enough votes to reach that number would get the appropriate number of seats based on votes. Litzman even says that history has shown that raising the minimum threshold repeatedly has not stopped small parties form getting in, nor has it made the government more stable...


NormanF said...

It has in Germany, which suffered a plague of small parties that paralyzed the Reichstag until the Nazi takeover under the Weimar Republic. Any party could enter the Reichstag with as little as 1% of the vote.

The framers of the post-war Basic Law that created the Federal Republic decided on a compromise electoral system. They created a proportional representation list that allowed parties to enter the Bundestag, provided they cleared a 5% threshold. To make things even more difficult for small parties, they also set up a first past the post single member constituency system, to give every one a personal representative as well as their list one in the Bundestag.

Now the effects of mixed member proportional representation has not eliminated coalition governments under the Federal Republic. In fact, only once in modern German history did a party win an absolute majority - the Christian Democrats did it in 1957. But its ensured stable governments because Germany has had a five party system and there have usually been two party coalition governments through the period since 1949.

Israel could do with a similar system with fewer parties and ensure that voters get to choose both their party AND a constituency representative. Under Israel's current system, no party is large enough to be the core of the government, voters still don't have a personal representative and thanks to the welter of small parties, Israel's has short-lived coalition governments.

Israel is much like the Weimar Republic or the French Fourth Republic. The one thing Israel does not have is effective and accountable government and even modest changes to that end would be welcome.

Batya said...

Personally, whenever I think of starting districts here, the word GERRYMANDER springs to mind like a nightmare.

I've heard Bibi speak about the subject and seems to like the German combination.

Anonymous said...

"I'm among those who wish we could turn back the clock."

So am I. I also voted for Otzmah l'Yisrael. If more people would have done less calculating based on "if I vote for this party, will my vote be wasted" and just voted on the merits, they would have gotten in even under the current rules, and they would have made all the difference.

I take a little hope because I can watch Moshe Feiglin as he has raised some basic issues, like the right to go up to Har haBayit. But I think it would have been more effective if Michael Ben-Ari had been able to walk by his side.

CDG, Yerushalayim

Batya said...

I agree with almost all you wrote CDG. I was just never enamored with Feiglin. I don't think he'll do even a fraction of what he had promised. He could have done it as a large Right opposition with Eldad and Ben-Ari