The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

01-Mar-2006

The Fifth and Lowest Form of Democracy

Filed under: Yamin Israel PartyDisengagementPARTIES & PERSONALITIES — eidelberg @ 8:26 am Edit This

Proportional representation (PR) is widely regarded as the most democratic system of government. If the electoral threshold is low, PR allows almost any distinct group of voters to win seats in a country’s law-making assembly.

Welcome to Israel. The entire country constitutes a single district and parties win Knesset seats in proportion to votes they receive in a national election. David Ben-Gurion opposed PR. Let’s juxtapose his reasoning (in Israel: A Personal History) and the life-and-death issue of “disengagement.”

PR was debated by Israel’s Provisional Government on November 4, 1948. Ben-Gurion writes:

Dr. Altman opposed a single constituency for the whole country with every voter choosing from a list of 120 candidates [the prescribed number of seats in the Knesset], with most of whom he was completely unfamiliar. This, he argued, would lead to fragmentation of the nation’s forces and artificial conflicts. [For example, United Torah Judaism consists of two factions, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael. Immediately after UTJ joined the Likud-Labor national unity government of January 2005, the two factions split because a member of Degel Hatorah accepted the chairmanship of the Knesset finance committee.]

“This present system”, Ben-Gurion continues,

cuts any connection between the voter and his representative, who would be dependent on his party leadership rather than on those who elected him and whom he would not even know. The ensuing party fragmentation would result in many parliamentary factions uniting to form a dominant majority, not on the basis of a common program but merely to divide up the positions of influence and the national budget. [Accordingly, United Torah Judaism which opposed “disengagement,” received 290 million shekels for joining the present government, which was nothing compared to what the pro-disengagement Labor Party received by gaining eight cabinet ministries!]

Regional elections alone, says Ben-Gurion, can prevent this, as the representative would know who had elected him and to whom he would be accountable in a future election. Instead of a multiplicity of parties, “a constituency system would promote national unity and an organic link between the voter and his legislative representative.”

Since PR and a low electoral threshold makes it virtually impossible for a single party to win a Knesset majority—none ever has—Israel has limped along with multi-party cabinet government; and the voters, who never really know which parties will compose the cabinet, never really know where their government is leading them. If this is democracy, it must be the fifth and lowest form of democracy Aristotle speaks of in his Politics, and which he likens to anarchy!

But as Aristotle understood, anarchy readily leads to tyranny—precisely what is happening in Israel thanks not only to Ariel Sharon, but also to the parliamentary system of proportional representation (which, by the way, was the system of the Weimar Republic, which ended in Hitlerian tyranny).

So let’s see what PR produced in Israel’s January 2003 elections, whose central issue was “disengagement” from Gaza. Four parties campaigned unambiguously against disengagement: Likud, National Union, Mafdal, and Israel B’Aliya. They won, respectively, 38, 7, 6, and 2 seats. The two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which won 11 and 5 seats respectively, opposed unilateral disengagement. Hence it can be said that PR produced a Knesset with no less than 69 members opposed to disengagement—a substantial majority representing, it’s reasonable to assume, a substantial majority of the voters.

(Notice I have excluded Shinui, an ultra-secular party that won 15 seats, even though its spokesmen opposed unilateral disengagement. I do so because Shinui, which was packaged for the January 2003 election as a right-wing party, is nothing of the kind and is anything but a champion of Jewish settlements.)

Leading the pro-disengagement parties was Labor (19 seats), Meretz (6), Am Ehad (3), and the three Arab parties (8), yielding a total of 36 seats. Therefore, even if the 15 Shinui seats be added to the pro-disengagement parties, the total would come to 51 seats or only 42.5 percent of the 120-member Knesset.

Now let’s look at what happened in Israel under its democratic system of proportional representation. In December 2003, Sharon adopted Labor’s pro-disengagement policy! National Union and Mafdal eventually resigned; and when Sharon offered UTJ 290 million shekels to prop up his faltering government, Shinui resigned. Sharon’s cabinet was decimated.

With his own party divided, Sharon became all the more dependent on the Labor Party to remain in power, hence to implement his disengagement plan. Rather than dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections, he formed the Likud-Labor-UTJ government which morphed into the present Kadima regime. Sharon thereby nullified the outcome of the January 2003 Knesset elections. This sort of thing is quite possible in Aristotle’s fifth and lowest type of democracy, which may be described as anarchy punctuated by tyranny.

Epilogue

Hazit—the Jewish National Alliance—is the one party committed to educating the public concerning Israel’s ill-designed and corrupt system of governance. Hazit’s partner, the Yamin Israel Party, is prepared to speak on every public forum—to speak to students at every college and university and yeshiva—to give radio and TV interviews, to insert revealing flyers in every newspaper, hence to blanket the country and galvanize the people with one goal in mind: to expose the decrepit and destructive nature of the system and thereby hasten regime change—the only answer to Israel’s salvation.