Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kadima and Likud claim victory in Israel poll.

The Israeli election has ended, highlighting - for me - all that is wrong with proportional representation.

Tipzi Livni has actually secured 28 seats whilst Netanyahu has secured 27. However, now the bartering will begin between the other parties who secured even less votes to see who can form a government and the parties that did not secure the majority of the votes will now assume a power - completely out of touch with their popularity - and decide who next governs Israel.

Now the views of the more extremist parties begin to assume a power which does not reflect the way most Israelis think.

Even though Livni won the elections she may yet lose the government. Her party has the largest number of seats but she may not become prime minister if, as expected, the right-wing parties can together muster a larger coalition.

Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right leader, came in third with 15 seats, a sizeable gain for him. Behind him came Ehud Barak, the Labour leader and defence minister, whose party had just 13 seats, one of its worst election results.

"Everything is wide open and up for negotiations," said Mitchell Barak, a pollster from Keevoon Research. He said a national unity government, bringing together the main parties, was most likely. "The only question is who is going to head it," he said.

Livni, 50, claimed that role for herself. "The people of Israel have chosen Kadima, and we will complete this task by forming a unity government headed by us," she said in a speech to party supporters. If successful she would be only the second woman elected prime minister in Israel's history.

There was stunned silence at Netanyahu's party headquarters in Tel Aviv when the exit polls were announced. For months leading up to the election he had been comfortably ahead, but his lead narrowed sharply in the final days. In part the rise of Lieberman took votes away from the Likud, although the right wing as a whole looked set to dominate.

Yet Netanyahu, 59, sounded just as victorious as his rival, and also promised a "broad and stable" government. "The question is not what the polls said. The question is what reality says," he said in a rousing speech to his supporters. "With God's help, I will lead the next government."

I have always favoured the "first past the post" system where one party eventually takes all. The notion of someone like Lieberman deciding who will rule the country simply appals me. Why should someone who so few people voted for assume such power?
Such a close final result also makes Lieberman a kingmaker. If Livni can draw him into a coalition she might hope to find a majority, but including him might cost her the support of some of the more left-wing parties.
So, we now have a quasi fascist holding the deciding vote. That strikes me as a bonkers system. I understand the arguments which state that in such a system every view is counted, but this is a perfect example of how, in such a situation, the views of the minority actually carry more weight than one would ever want.

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