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For a subjective overview of the individual parties and what they stand--or refuse to stand--for, check out Biur Chametz
#43: Israeli Elections
(March 20, 2006)National elections to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are held once every four years, unless circumstances call for early elections. This year, the election will be held on March 28.
Election day is a holiday.
Every Israeli citizen aged 18 or older has the right to vote. The number of eligible voters for the 2006 elections is 5,014,622. On average, in 17 national elections, turnout has averaged 79%.
Israeli law does not provide for absentee ballots, and voting takes place only on Israeli soil. The sole exceptions are Israeli citizens serving on Israeli ships and in Israeli embassies and consulates abroad.
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 the total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast.
According to the Basic Law: The Knesset, the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates’ list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:
- negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
- negation of the democratic character of the State;
- incitement to racism.
Every citizen aged 21 or older is eligible for election to the Knesset, provided they have no criminal record, do not hold an official position (the president, state comptroller, judges and senior public officials, as well as the chief-of-staff and high-ranking military officers, may not stand for election to the Knesset unless they have resigned their position at least 100 days before the elections), and the court has not specifically restricted this right (for example, in the rare case of a person convicted of treason).
Prior to the elections, each party presents its platform, and the list of candidates for the Knesset, in order of precedence. The parties select their candidates for the Knesset in primaries or by other procedures.
Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. If a certain party received sufficient votes for 10 seats, for example, the first 10 candidates on its list will enter the Knesset.
According to the Party Financing Law, a treasury allocation for election campaigns is granted to each faction at the rate of one pre-defined “financing unit” per seat won in the previous Knesset elections plus one unit per mandate won in the current Knesset elections, divided by two, plus one additional financing unit. New factions receive a similar allocation, retroactively, based on the number of seats won in the elections.
Since a government requires the Knesset's confidence to function, it must have a supporting coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members. 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.
The Knesset member to whom the task is assigned has a period of 28 days to form a government. The President may extend the term by an additional period of time, not exceeding 14 days.
When a government has been formed, the designated prime minister presents it to the Knesset within 45 days of publication of election results in the official gazette. At this time, he announces its composition, the basic guideline of its policy, and the distribution of functions among its ministers. The prime minister then asks the Knesset for an expression of confidence. The government is installed when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it by a majority of 61 Knesset members, and the ministers thereupon assume office.
Dr. Bard is available for media interviews and speaking engagements on this and other topics.