March is bringing more than just Purim this year. On the 17th of the month it will be… (if you said St. Patrick’s day, well you are partially right) Israel will hold elections for the Knesset. If you think our elections can be a mess (hanging chads and the like) you have not really experienced true democratic chaos until you try and understand the Israeli electoral system and how a government is formed.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy which means that the ‘government’ has to have a ‘simple majority’ to pass laws. Now I used the term ‘simple majority’ but this is Israel… and very little is ‘simple.’ First the ‘winning’ party will most likely be the party that gets a little over 20% of the vote. The Knesset has 120 seats, yet the winning party will have only about 25 seats. So the winning party will need at least 35+ seats to form a government. Here is where Israeli politicians have to make a … coalition.
Once elections determine which part has the largest number of seats, the president (Reuven Rivlin) will usually invite the leader of that party to form a coalition. The coalition agreement needs to be strong enough to keep the various parties in the coalition for the longest time. That is the hope. In actuality slights, petty arguments, and even some real policy decisions often end a government through a no-confidence vote. Then Israelis have to return back to the polls for another election.
While you may hear about the Israeli elections, remember the elections are only the first step in the process. It usually takes a few weeks after the elections for the parties to agree to the new arrangements of a coalition. So remember that when the rest of our community is looking to shamrocks, Israelis will be going to the ballot box to pick who will rule over the State of Israel.