Israel dispatch: new elections offer opportunity for stability, but may not provide it
Walkerssk / Pixabay
Israel dispatch: new elections offer opportunity for stability, but may not provide it

Yael Iosilevich is a law student in the Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University and JURIST’s Staff Correspondent in Israel. 

Today, Tuesday, 1.11.2022, Israelis are heading to the polls to vote in the country’s fifth round of general elections in three and a half years.

What has caused this political turmoil, you ask? For this, we need some context: Israel has a parliamentary system in which the 120 seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) are divided by proportional representation to any party that gets more than 3.25% of the votes. Israel has many parties representing different social sectors and ideologies, and no party has ever won an outright majority. Consequently, a coalition government is formed based on various parties teaming up to create a majority of 61 seats. The fact that several small parties must be include together in a coalition allows many of them to be in a position of power to destroy the majority, not only by one party leaving the coalition but even by the threat of one member of parliament leaving.

What makes coalition-building even more difficult is that different parties refuse to work with one another. The most major polarizing figure is Benjamin Netanyahu, a former long-serving prime minister, who has, according to polls, the more prominent number of seats but is also being condemned by many parties due to his involvement in a corruption trial and others political reasons.

In the last round of elections, Netanyahu’s opponents managed to form a coalition of parties from across the political spectrum, with the aim of keeping him out of power used as the glue sticking them together. This coalition held for about a year, until its end in late June, which has led to new elections.

What is going to happen after the election results arrive? The formation of the government takes a predefined structure based on Israeli law: after the formal results are published, the president will invite a designated Knesset member, typically the leader of the party with the most seats, to try and form a government by teaming up with different parties. This task is given 28 days to complete or 42 days upon extension. If the designated member fails to form a government, the president will call upon another parliament member to try and do the same thing again within 28 days. If this attempt is also unsuccessful, the whole Knesset gets the chance to try and find a majority. If all this fails, no government will be formed, and a new election will be held.

Israeli citizens are concerned by many issues these days. The most dominant ones shaping today’s elections are the cost of living, security (as usual in any elections in Israel), and whether Benjamin Netanyahu will be prime minister – with that comes the question of whether the far right will rise to power in Israel as part of Netanyahu’s majority. Israel also hopes for a more stable government, holding for at least longer than a year. Israel’s parliament rarely holds for an entire governing period of four years but usually holds for at least two years, something the country has not seen for a long time.

Unfortunately, it is hard to believe today’s elections will result in a stable government, given that no bloc has a solid majority, especially not with the different election promises of many parties to not to work in any coalition together.