Saturday, December 15, 2012

Israeli Elections

Israeli elections is similar to mud wrestling. There is no hard and fast winner and everyone gets dirty in the process.

There are approximately 25 parties competing in the upcoming elections, most of whom have niche markets, and a few that represent most of the issues in the country. The Green Leaf party, for example, has one primary issue, legalization of marijuana, and a few secondary issues, such as legalization of prostitution and human rights . A party that gets fewer then 3 seats is not in the Knesset and it is a wasted vote to vote for a party that will probably not make it in.

 The Knesset has 120 seats and in order to form a government a party must present 61 seats, so there is a "stable" majority. Since no party actually gets 61 seats, the parties try to form a coalition of smaller parties to get 61 seats. In order to do this, the parties have to compromise on their issues and form a coalition agreement that all the parties in the coalition agree to. For example, the Green Leaf party may agree to partake in the government if the agreement includes legislation to legalize marijuana but does not address prostitution or any of their other wacky issues.

The party with the most seats gets the first chance to form a coalition. In the last elections, Kadima had the most seats, but were unable to get any other parties to agree with them so they were unable to form a coalition. The Likud, had fewer seats but were able to form a coalition and they formed the government. This is the primary reason why the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu merged recently, so they would have a much better chance of being the largest party and therefore getting first shot and forming the government. Small parties have the ability to push larger more mainstream parties in their direction by becoming coalition partners.

In the upcoming elections, it looks like the Likud Beitenu merger will have the most seats. If they form a coalition with center-left parties, then they will have to agree to having negotiations and concessions to the Arabs. If they form a coalition with more right wing parties they will have to agree to take a harder line with the Arabs and to continue building in the West Bank.

The stronger/larger the secondary parties are the more influence they have. The largest party has to promise them government ministries in order to join the coalition. The Bayit Yehudi in the current government only has 3 seats. They joined the government and received the ministry of space and technology. It sounds impressive that they were in charge of the entire universe outside of Earth, but it really comes with a small budget and no influence.

Should you vote for a large party or a small party? In my opinion you either want to vote for the largest party in the opposition or the party that best represents you in a coalition. Of course, you don't know if your party is going to be in the coalition or not. So, if you are worried that the largest party that represents you will not be the biggest party, then you should probably vote for them. However, if you are a firm believer in a specific issue and don't care about anything else, then you should probably vote Green Leaf. When you're high nothing else matters.

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