Israel is one of the only countries in the world where its entire legislature is elected to represent the country as a whole, and it is often blamed for Israel’s unstable and rapidly-changing party system. It is true that Israel’s pure form of proportional representation contributes to instability in Israeli politics, although the dragging on of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s unique ethnic diversity and geopolitical position in the Middle East suggest that no electoral system would shift towards a stable two-party system any time soon.
In response to this week’s election results, there have been numerous calls for electoral reform in Israel, incuding from Tzipi Livni and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.
The ABC quotes former Labour MK Professor Shimon Shitreet proposing a possible model:
Professor Shitreet and others are proposing a change they think the smaller parties will accept, where half of the members would be elected by district and half would remain under the proportional system.
This model is used in Japan, South Korea, and most interestingly elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, the body that became dominated by Hamas at the 2006 election.
Another possible model would be the MMP system used in New Zealand and Germany. Using New Zealand’s system, all parties except the five largest would be wiped out, making it easier to form a government. However, it is likely that at least some Arab parties would win constituencies in the north. The district around Acre would have four districts out of sixty, and has a substantial Arab population. This would allow Arab voters to keep representation in Parliament.
The biggest obstacle is that any electoral reform would almost certainly result in a higher electoral threshold, even if that comes about through indirect means, such as electing MKs through multi-member constituencies. While the five largest parties, as well as the Arab parties collectively, would still win seats under most mixed systems, the smaller parties would likely be wiped out or forced to merge with each other or with a major party. Most scenarios for forming a new government include some of those parties in a new governing coalition, and in spite of their small numbers they would likely veto any potential electoral reform. However, a potential alliance of Likud, Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu would provide a majority government of large parties that could introduce serious electoral reform.