Knesset is projected to have smallest number of parties ever to be elected – is the electoral threshold improving governance?

August 4, 2019 by Arye Green -TPS
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The upcoming Knesset is projected to have the smallest number of parties ever to be elected to the Israeli parliament, the latest polls show.

Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS

Only nine parties are expected to pass the electoral threshold, which currently stands at 3.25% of the votes in the general election. The small number of parties could have a significant impact on governance, which has been a contentious issue in Israeli politics in recent years.

The governance in the Israeli political system refers to the ability of a given elected government to implement its policy effectively. A stable long-term government is key for such governance.

Israel’s parliamentary political system is extraordinarily fragmented and has seen a growing number of small parties in recent years. This situation has made it increasingly difficult for coalitions to form, due to the demands put forth by small parties who can make or break a coalition.

In response to this problem, the electoral threshold was raised from 1.5% to 2% in 2006, and again to 3.25% in 2015.

In the April 2019 elections, some parties consolidated their power, such as the Joint List which incorporated the Arab parties in the Knesset into one list. Other parties, however, did not reach the necessary threshold, such as the New Right and Zehut parties. This resulted in a massive loss in right-wing votes and has frustrated many right-wing voters.

In the current elections, set for September 17, it seems the lesson has been learned, and the smaller parties have made significant efforts to join together in larger blocs, where they are safe from the electoral threshold threat.

The objective of the electoral threshold, namely forcing small parties to consolidate power, seems to have been met. Whether or not this will help or hurt governance in the long run, remains to be seen.

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