Re Israeli PM elections

For some years Israels PM was directly elected. They have abandoned it now. Here is a question. How did it work? I can understand a head to head vote in theory, but in parliamentary style systems (which Israel seems to be) the PM needs to have at least the chance of having majority support in Parliament most of the time (even with a minority government) to govern at all. Where the PM is elected on a seperate ballot from the Parliament, then there is a great chance that he will find himself with his enemies in charge in Parliament and he is unable to do much.

When you ask how it works, do you mean how well did it work? The answer is, not very well. Check out Emanuele Ottolenghi’s article “Why Direct Election Failed in Israel”.

It was introduced after “the stinking maneuver”, when Shimon Perez tried and failed to bring down the government, and the hope was that by electing the Prime Minister by popular vote, it would nationalize the elections; that people would think less of “Here’s who I want to represent me” and more “This is the party I want to be in charge”, and the Prime Minister would carry his party members in on his coattails.

:: confused ::

Obviously not too well, since Netanyahu wouldn’t have been the PM if Kadima had been able to get their shit together. Kadima won more seats, but failed to form a coalition government.

That. And how did confidence and supply matters work? It seems a loaded pistol handed to an opposition.

I think one of the factors to bear in mind is that Israel has never had a majority government, IIRC. As a result of Israel’s unique PR electoral system, the government has always been a coalition or a minority. No one party has ever had a majority.

In that situation, direct election of the PM isn’t so unusual, since the PM will always have to negotiate with the other parties anyway for support. I agree it wouldn’t work in a system that has a strong tradition of majority governments, such as Canada or the UK.

One unintended (and in my mind, disastrous) result of the change was the strengthening of small parties at the expense of large ones - the way voters saw it, they could vote for a PM candidate from a large, broad-based party, while saving their Knesset vote for a smaller, more narrow-interest party. As a result, both Labor and Likud were weakened, smaller parties like Shas achieved record numbers of seats, and the legislature became even more fragmented. Even when they restored the old system, voters got into the habit of voting for small parties, and the big ones have yet to regain their old strength.

It’s the perfect example to counter ignorant complaints here in the UK that we don’t elect the PM - we’re not supposed to.

Off-topic a bit, but in my opinion Alessan’s comment highlights one of the strengths of the Westminster system over congressional / presidential systems like the USA. In a westminster parliamentary system the voter can’t split their vote, and vote simultaneously for candidates with different goals. You can’t vote for a presidential candidate who wants to increase taxes and spending, and for a congressional candidate who wants to decrease taxes and spending. You as a voter have to decide which policy is preferable and vote accordingly. The single vote imposes policy discipline on the voters.

I disagree; I think the Westminster system just expresses chaos and deadlock in different ways. Belgium went months without a government, and Greece recently had to run a do-over election. The UK’s Conservative-LibDem coalition seems to satisfy no one, and the Tories apparently just ran up a bill that they knew would lose, because it was part of their manifesto to do so. Canada recently had a one-year government, and another one that was prorogued (to be fair, I never fully understood what that meant, but it sounds painful ;)). And then there’s Italy…

Don’t you think that would have happened regardless? If it has continued afterwards that seems to suggest that the fractionalization of the vote would still have happened.

Every system has its faults.

The Israeli system, IIRC, was that the PM was explicitly elected for what, 6 months? A year? Then if he lost confidence, someone else could be PM. The idea was to stop jockeying and encourage parties to make a deal, since they could not play the other parties against each other. “We’ll support you as PM if you make me finance minister…” the PM was already picked, so your choice was cooperate or not.

PR’s major flaw is that it encourages a lot of dealing and negotiating because any grroup with a noisy leader can get a few members elected. Those members owe more to the party than to the voters at large. they exist only because of their unique platform with distinguishes them from other politicians, so compromise would lose them votes.

Westminster’s biggest flaw is that if the one party gets a majority, the leader is dictator for the next 5 years. this is a side effect of excessive party discipline. I have said before, the Westminster system is better than the Ottawa system. with 600 members, Westminster majorities ahve over 150 to 300 disgruntled government backbenchers who know they are not gioing to be cabinet material, so they are more likely to challenge the aprty leader. With Ottawa, tha majority is 155 and subtracting over 100 ministers and wannabees leaves you with almost nobody to challenge the leader inside the party - the only place that can happen in a majority.

The pro-rogue - basically, after an election which changed nothing, a 4-party minority, the PM decided he could poke the opposition in the eye. He proposed a bill to eliminate lection funding for federal parties, since his had money and theirs were broke. he also threw in a gratuitous poke at the left wing parties with a bill nullifying equal pay fo women. he figured the Liberals, with a weak leader and no money had no choice but to vote along or risk another expensive losing election. Instead, they got together with the socialists and (horrors!) separatists and agreed to form a coalition. To avoid a vote that would bounce him from office, he went to the governor gneral and had the parliament suspended for 2 months, by which time the coalition had fallen apart. However, he learned his lesson - don’t get to dickish. Prime Minister Harper decided to be a dick because he could, and he didn’t think the opposition could do anything about it; but thanks to the system, he was forced to back down.