As noted by Wilf in a previous thread on a proposed reform of Israel’s executive-legislative structure, a commission appointed by President Moshe Katsav has recommended a mixed-member system for Knesst elections, according to Haaretz.
The proposal is for a ratio of 75% single-member districts to 25% compensatory seats, with a single vote (unlike most mixed-member systems in current use). Wilf notes that it is “almost exactly the MMP model used in Nordrhein-Westfalen, but minus the essential safeguard: overhang seats in case 25% [compensation seats] is not enough.”
In a very detailed and helpful comment in that earlier thread, reader Espen offers a critique that I felt worthy of its own planting. The remainder of this post is not mine; it is Espen’s. I have also moved some follow-up comments from the other thread to this one.
I havenâ€™t been able to find the actual report. But from the description in the Haaretz article it appears as if the commission more or less copied the previous electoral system for the Italian Senate (which still applies in the Trentino-Alto Adige region). An excellent description of that system can be found at electionresources.org/it
The purpose of the 30 additional seats is not to achieve overall proportionality. These seats are instead awarded proportionally based only on votes for candidates that did not win their constituencies initially1– without regard for how many constituency seats their parties already have won. So, it is not a parallel system, nor is it fully compensatory. Its degree of proportionality lies somewhere in between, depending to some degree on how and where the votes are cast.
According to another text written by the same author, found at the commissionâ€™s website (but which apparently describes an earlier version of the proposal), the additional seats are then awarded to initially â€œlosingâ€ candidates in the order in which they were ranked in advance by their parties (a sort of closed list without an actual list in the normal sense).
Such a system would likely lead to the parties forming fewer and clearer pre-election alliances (and the winning coalition most likely getting a larger than proportional share of the seats). But it perhaps would not lead to fewer parties in the Knesset. Small parties could negotiate/blackmail their way to safe constituency seats in return for providing votes for a coalition, as seen in Italy. Also, there would no longer be a national threshold2, but on the other hand small parties might find it hard to run candidates and collect votes in all constituencies.
If Duvergerâ€™s law kicks in, perhaps the larger parties could become more dominant both in terms of votes and seats (especially since there would be no party vote with which the smaller parties could demonstrate their true support level, which would be useful in future bargaining). That seems to be the hope of the drafters, as it was when the one-vote MMP system was introduced in West Germany after the war, and as it was when the MMP systems were introduced in Italy in 1993.
Finally, while the proposal does not achieve the level of proportionality that many participants here would want to see in an MMP system, this is probably the intent of the drafters. Also, I give the commission kudos for avoiding the warped incentive structures that some MMP systems can contain. However, I think they gloss over the challenges of drawing single-member constituency boundaries in Israel.
1. It appears that surplus votes for winning candidates (i.e. votes above the nearest challenger) do not count in the national proportional stage, although I could be mistaken about that. This means that such votes can be â€œwastedâ€ in the sense that they no longer help the top candidate, while not helping elect anyone else, either. However, an inclusion of such votes would reduce proportionality since that would be another advantage for the constituency winners.
2. Assuming that the average constituency winner got 40% of the vote, the 60% who supported none of the initial winners would compete for 30 proportional seats nationally. As one can see, for a small, unattached party the removal of the present 2% hurdle would not be a great improvement. In fact, the proposal might cut their number of seats in half (at least).