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Q&A: A Guide to the Perplexed: "Defecting" from a Parliamentary Faction

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Further to reports about the possibility that one or more Knesset members (among them Yamina MK Amichai Chikli) might be declared as having seceded from their faction, the Israel Democracy Institute offers the following guide to the restrictions on such "defectors", the parliamentary tools they still retain, and the implications for their parliamentary funding and their membership in the current government.

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Who is a “defector"? A Knesset member whom the Knesset House Committee rules has seceded from his or her faction remains an “unattached member of Knesset,” and is forbidden to join any faction during that Knesset term.

Parliamentary tools in the current Knesset:

What restrictions will apply in the current Knesset? Those who opt to secede from their faction will not have “the right to propose a no-confidence vote in the government, be given an office designated for a faction in the Knesset building, or issue notifications regarding non-participation in Knesset discussions or votes.”

"A Member of the Knesset, who according to the House Committee has left his Parliamentary Group, as stated in article 61 of the Knesset Law, shall have all the rights that these Rules of Procedure grant to a parliamentary group, except for the right to propose the expression of no-confidence in the Government, receive a parliamentary group room on the premises, and make announcements regarding non-participation in a debate or a vote."

And which parliamentary tools will still be available? Those who secede from their factions will still be able to raise queries and ex parte motions on the Knesset agenda, vote in the plenum, and request documents from the Knesset Research and Information Center. They will—of course—continue to enjoy parliamentary immunity. In addition, they may propose regular motions on the agenda and serve as members (and even chairs) of Knesset committees, if other factions such as the Likud are willing to allow this at the expense of their own allocation of regular motions and committee seats. Those seceding from their factions can also advance private members’ bills that have been submitted to the Knesset if one of the parties allocates from their quota (they can, in any case, table such bills, but the initiation of a preliminary reading for the bill is subject to factionary allocations).

Running for the next Knesset:

Running as a candidate in a list not represented in the current Knesset: Those seceding from their factions will not be able to run in the next elections in any framework in which a party represented in the current Knesset is a member. Should MK Amichai Chikli be declared a "defector", he will not be able to run on the same list as any faction currently serving in the Knesset (including the Likud or one of the religious- Zionist parties). He will be able to run as a candidate of a new party in the next elections, if the party is running independently. This sanction will not apply if he or she resigns from the Knesset after being declared as having seceded from the faction.

Funding:

In the current Knesset: Parties represented by a Knesset faction receive monthly public funding, according to the number of their members currently serving in government with each MK is "worth" approximately NIS 83,316. Parties represented by independent MKs, who are not part of any faction, are not eligible for such funding. Therefore, Should MK Amichai Chikli be declared as having seceded from his faction, he—or rather, the new party he will join or form—will not receive "his" ongoing party funding. At the same time, the funding given to his party Yamina—will not be affected and will continue at the same level. However, those who secede do continue to receive the financial benefits given to an individual Knesset member, including a salary and a budget for communicating with constituents.

In the next elections: The party in which a MK who has seceded runs for the Knesset will be considered a new party, and will receive the same funding as any other party not represented in the current Knesset.

Membership in the government during the current Knesset term: Those who secede, will not be able to serve as ministers or deputy ministers in the current Knesset. This sanction will not apply if the seceding MK resigns from the Knesset after being declared as having seceded from their faction.