Its latest coalition government does reflect public opinion
They don’t seem to like each other: Israel’s President Shimon Peres congratulates Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Jerusalem — Whether you like the outcome or not, the results of Israel’s 18th national election demonstrate that proportional representation can better reflect a country’s politics than Canada’s ancient voting system.
Following an election in which Israel’s two major parties both failed to win an outright majority, the ultra-right-wing Yisrael Beteinu party now holds the balance of power in the country’s 120-seat Knesset.
Israel’s centrist Kadima party lead by former Foreign Minister Tipi Livni won 28 seats in the country’s 18th national election, just one more than former prime minister Bejamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
But a visceral and some say, fascist appeal by Liberman that played to Israeli anger at continuing rocket attacks by Hamas from inside Gaza, and attempts to remove settlements in the formerly Palestinian West Bank, gave his small party a 15-seat ticket to the cabinet table.
A deeply divided country
I’m certainly not one to feel happy about the results of this election, and according to this observer, neither is Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is a deeply divided country, and its governments on average last only two years. They are often bizarre, patched-together coalitions between unlikely bedfellows; most don’t survive the full four-year term.
But that’s not my point. The majority of Israelis supported their country’s recent armed excursion into Gaza, and want to continue to harass and destroy the democratically-elected but anti-Zionist Hamas.
Where in Canada, an inconclusive election would still allow the leader of the party with the most seats in parliament to govern the country as if he or she had an overall majority, clearly this cannot happen in Israel.
The distribution of seats under its closed party-list proportional representation system means that Israeli voters choose a list, not a candidate. Each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes, using a ranking order of candidates provided by the party.
With a low electoral threshold of only 2%, small parties can easily win representation in the Knesset. Perhaps the resulting patchwork is too cacophonous for polite Canadans, but that’s not the point either.
Without the safety-valve of many voices in parliament, I suggest that Israeli politics would be even more divisive — if that’s at all possible. The country would simply fly apart, with even more disastrous results.
Proportional representation is being successfully used in most democratic countries. Canada, the USA, and Britain are today’s democratic laggards.
It’s time we brought our politics in line with a multi-party world.