Israel has elections in March. It will be the 3rd time in around one year. Yes – this is an embarrassment to the State of Israel. It is not that Israel’s democracy is not legitimate. Israel’s democracy is actually very stable. But, the parliamentary democracy that Israel has happens to have a glitch in the system that allows for the absurd situation that has arisen to unfold. So, now, even Lionel Richie is involved in getting Israelis out to vote.
The Israeli electoral system is one that is comprised of a parliament with 120 seats – the Knesset. In order to set up a government, one person needs to have at least 61 people – a majority of the Knesset – support them to be the leader of the government. There has never been one party that has received a majority of seats on their own. So, therefore, every time, a coalition needs to be formed between several parties in order to put together a government. Generally speaking, the system works. But in the unique political environment that exists in Israel today, the two large parties that have the best chance of setting up a government are locked in a stalemate. Neither one is willing to join the other side, and not enough of the small parties are willing to work with either side in order to reach the magic number of 61. There is more blaming going on then cooperation. Perhaps it will lead to a reorganization of the parliamentary system in the next government. But for now, things are stuck.
The best electoral system in the world is probably the three branch government of the United States. The checks and balances and separation of powers allow for both the ability to enact and execute new laws while not allowing any one branch to accrue too much power. The Israeli system does not have enough checks and balances on the Prime Minister. He can play with the members of Knesset like a bunch of chess pieces. As long as the Prime Minister is able to get 61 people to support their leadership, they can stay in power for many years. There are no term limits in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been in power for much more than 10 years. Many of his opponents feel that he simply has too much power. So, even after the 3rd election, there are those that foresee yet a 3rd stalemate and yet another election on the horizon.
One thing is clear. The results of the election will lead to Israelis being up All Night Long until the morning. Even then, it won’t be clear what Israel has in store for it.