ACRI Protests Raising the Elections Threshold

Photography: Tali Nir




Rather than improving governance, the proposed bill will weaken the political representation of minorities- in particular Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox.





The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by MK David Rotem (Likud Beiteinu), began discussing two bills to amend Israel’s Basic Law: The Government. The “governance bills” include, among other things, a dramatic increase of the threshold for election to the Knesset – from 2% to 4% of the national vote. On Monday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent the committee members its position paper laying out the dangers of raising the threshold, the greatest of which is the political disenfranchisement of minorities such as Arabs and Haredim.


In the position paper, Attorney Debbie Gild-Hayo, Director of Policy Advocacy at ACRI, argues that the threshold has a critical impact on the representation of minority groups in Israeli society. The bill proponents’ implied suggestion that such parties unite is harmful and borders on racism. Arabs, Haredim and other minorities are entitled to the same freedom of choice and variety of political parties as groups within the country’s majority.


Moreover, raising the threshold will amplify the existing distortions in elections results caused by the apportionment of votes for parties who do not cross the threshold: large and midsize parties will gain disproportionately at the expense of the small parties. Larger parties will automatically take larger shares of new seats unsupported by an actual electorate.


The position paper cites examples from elsewhere in the world that use different means to ensure that parliamentary election thresholds do not harm minority groups, such as an exemption from the threshold for parties representing national or ethnic minorities (Denmark, Poland), lower thresholds for minority parties (Romania), or systems in which votes for minority parties that don’t cross the threshold are automatically passed to another party in accordance with the voter’s wishes (Australia).


According to Attorney Gild-Hayo, “governance cannot be improved while there is a concern that the democratic process will be seriously harmed by and minority representation further marginalized. We cannot allow a situation in which the threshold will be used by the majority to bar the minority from participating in the Knesset.”


The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will continue holding hearings on the governance bills next week.


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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Minority Rights, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties

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