Monday, March 27, 2006

Israeli Elections

The elections for the Isreali Knesset (parliament) are scheduled for March 28. Here is a good article by Telegraph entitled, "A Quiet Revolution in Israel to Vote Out the Extremists."

The national voting age in Isreal is 18. The number of eligible voters in the 2006 election is 5 million. On average, turnout for national elections has averaged around 80%, which is pretty high by American standards.

Voters cast one ballot for a political party to represent them in the Knesset. The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party's percentage of total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast.

There are a total of 31 parties running in this year's elections. The three major parties are Labor (left-wing), Likud (right-wing), and Kadima (centrist). Current acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, heads the Kadima Party, which was formed in November by Ariel Sharon t0 set Israel's final borders. Likud is led by Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister who takes a hard line against the Palestinians. And the Labor Party is headed by former union chief Amir Peretz, who favors a peace deal with the Palestinians and a more equitable economy. Polls indicate that none of the three main parties -- Kadima, Likud and Labor -- will come close to the total of 61 seats required for an outright majority.

A party must have at least 61 of 120 seats of the Knesset to be able to form a government. To date, no party has received enough Knesset seats to be able to form a government by itself. Thus all Israeli governments have been based on coalitions of several parties, with those remaining outside the government making up the opposition. Within 7 days following the vote, Israeli President Moshe Katsav is required to ask a member of the new Knesset, usually the leader of the party with the largest representation, to form a new government. The member then has 28 days to form a government.

Interestingly enough, the Israeli law allows for the disqualification of any candidate who has expressed one of the following:
a) negation of the existence of the State of Isreal as the state of Jewish people
b) negation of the democratic character of the State
c) incitement to racism
This is sort of like our own Guardian Council, which disqualifies candidates deemed "anti-revolutionary" and inimical to the general interests of the Islamic Republic. Some people argue that Israel is the only theocratic democracy in the world. Does Isreal qualify as a theocracy since the law itself designates the state as "the state of Jewish people"? What do you think?

- Ali

Interesting article. There's no doubt that Isreal is a theocratic state in the sense that its a "Jewish state." Also,prefential imigration policy for Jewish imigration might support the claim that israel is a democratic theocracy. But I think that Iraelis might defend there election laws, because according to their gov't website, The Knesset gives the legislator the power to deny the right to vote to anyone as it may see fit, but the Knesset has never made use of this power. Whereas in Iran or egypt- my parents' place of origin, these types of laws are commonly used in practice? So the key question is practice. And of course, some question the theocratic and democratic nature of Israeli elections because of the Palestinian Issue.
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