The Amendment to the Bill Allowing a Faction to Split would Help Reduce the Political Fragmentation

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Limits should be placed on the conditions under which joint lists composed of several parties can split up. It also needs to be clear under what circumstances a Knesset Member who has seceded from his faction must resign, so that the resignation will be considered to be “soon after his secession.”

Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

The bill in question would abolish the option currently available to four or more Knesset members to secede from their faction (even if they do not satisfy the other conditions for secession —an option that was added as part of Amendment 49 to the Basic Law: The Knesset, passed by the previous Knesset.

Our opinion on the bill is as follows:

1. The proposal follows others advanced by the new coalition as well as by its predecessors, that modify basic principles of the parliamentary system in order to serve the Government’s specific political interests—and is doing so with lightning speed. Such proceedings manifest contempt for the rules of the system and undermine their stability, flying in the face of the fundamentals of democracy. If every government, by virtue of its ruling coalition, can remake the rules as it wishes, the rules become no more than recommendations. Even when there is some objective justification for modifying the rules of the system, it should be done in an orderly legislative process, conducted with due deliberation, rather than in haste, and along with a serious public debate in the Knesset and the media that takes account of different positions and voices—including academia and civil society. This is not what is happening with the current bill.

2. Nevertheless. we support the bill on the substantive level. l. At the time, we voiced our opposition to Amendment 49 to the Basic Law: The Knesset, which permits a group of four or more Knesset members to split from their faction. This amendment was unacceptable, not only because it was motivated by specific political interests, but also because it encouraged MKs to secede from their faction. In general, the breakup of Knesset factions destabilizes the Knesset and Government and impairs their performance. It undermines public trust in politics, since it is something of a “breach of promise” by the parliamentarians to their voters (the MKs ran as a single list), and heightens the public’s sense that Knesset members act primarily for their own personal interests, and not as representatives of the voters. Faction splitting has been especially common in the last few Knessets. For this reason, and especially now, it is important to encourage political stability and reduce these splits s; this is what the bill would accomplish.

3. We call on Knesset members to consider—later in the Knesset's term, and through an orderly and appropriate procedure—additional amendments to the laws dealing with faction splits. Two changes in particular are required: (a) Placing limits on the ability of joint lists (composed of more than one party) to split. Today they can do so at any time, unconditionally, and without facing any sanctions. Faction splits have become a common event, undermining the goal of greater stability and less fragmentation in the Knesset and Government, and rendering the competition among the l parties combined in a single electoral list, no more than an “exercise.” (b) Making it clear when a Knesset member who has split away from t his or her faction must resign from the house in order for this to be considered to have occurred “soon after his secession.” This is an important issue, because MKs who do not resign from the Knesset soon after they secede from their factions are subject to severe sanctions under the Basic Law: The Knesset and the Basic Law: The Government. The case of MK Amichai Shikli in the previous Knesset—and the court proceedings on whether he had resigned “soon after”—was a prime example of why this needs to be made crystal clear.