"The law in Israel has a double-standard and discriminates against parties with democratic systems that enable the wider public to take an active role in politics"
Ahead of today's Ministerial Committee on Legislation meeting, the Israel Democracy Institute sent a policy statement asking ministers to support an amendment presented by MKs Omer Barlev, David Bitan and Nissan Slomiansky, whch would increase the amount of state funding granted to parties that hold internal democratic processes.
According to the bill, parties that hold primaries among all their members would be given a grant of NIS 100,000 for each MK from their faction that is currently in the Knesset if they have up to 50,000 members, a grant of NIS 200,000 per MK if they have between 50,000 to 100,000 members, and NIS 300,000 per MK if they have more than 100,000 members. Parties like Meretz, that have partial primaries, would receive 20 percent of that funding, according to this formula.
The authors of the policy statement, IDI's Prof. Gideon Rahat and Dr. Ofer Kenig, explain that this amendment appears among IDI's political reform recommendations, which have been rolled out over the past several years, and it would be consistent with laws that exist in other similar democratic countries, including Finland, Germany and New Zealand. Today, only four parties (Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Labor and Meretz) hold some form of primary elections, something which Rahat and Kenig consider unacceptable.
The authors of the policy statement explain that the current situation in Israel presents a double standard that ironically harms the four parties that hold primaries, which must bear the heavy cost of funding their primaries and suffer debts from doing so. They say it is "unreasonable" that 75 percent of the Parties Law explains the obligations of parties that hold primaries, but the law does not encourage or require the parties to hold them at all.
"This bill is fair compensation for the expenditures made by parties as a result of implementing the democratic values that Israel should be encouraging and advancing," write Kenig and Rahat. "At the same time, this bill would not harm parties that do not hold primaries because they believe it would interfere with their values" (such as the authority of the rabbis of religious parties).
IDI emphasizes that besides recognizing the principle need of the state to support internal party democratic processes, it should also act to weaken negative phenomena caused as a result of the way primaries are currently handled by strengthening the power and the ability of citizens to participate in them and increasing the oversight over them, as can be found in IDI's long-standing recommendations.