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The Latest Coalition Government Proposition: An Un-Democratic Violation of our Electoral Rights and Freedoms

It was reported this week that the coalition is considering a bill that will prevent an accused (but not convicted) individual from forming a government. This proposal undermines the very essence of democracy. It violates the right to vote and the right to be elected. It will also increase the already excessive governmental power of the Attorney General who will effectively be able to revoke the opposition chairman’s candidacy for Prime Minister by filing an indictment against him.

Similarly, the prosecution has unlimited discretion to decide whether to prosecute. In the case of past politicians the threat of prosecution was implemented just in order to raise suspicion and remove an unwanted individual from office or bring about his retirement. This is not a conspiracy. Just a few years ago, it was revealed that senior police chiefs had created the ‘Yitzhaki document’ in which they collated material on violations by dozens of Knesset members. This was not produced for investigation purposes. It was simply a document that they wanted to have ready should they require it at some point in the future.

When the Basic Law was enacted it was stipulated that the prime minister could serve and leaders could run for Prime Minister until a final court verdict was reached. This was done for fear of persecution and to prevent the ability of a single judge to oust a Prime Minister. However, the new proposed law of the coalition government does just the opposite. Despite assurances to the contrary that they would avoid anti-democratic laws, it seems the situation has become personal as they realize that the public is sympathetic to former Prime Minister Netanyahu even in opposition. They fear what the next election campaign might hold. This proposal is an attempt to oust those who threaten the ability of the ruling government to remain in power. Its initiators are even willing to give up all public legal processes to prevent a possible confrontation. 

This attempt at thwarting an opposition leader from running for government should worry those who hold this country dear. This new model is no longer democratic, nor does it require a democratic system of government. Free elections can be waived and the chairman of the opposition can be prevented from running in the name of a war on corruption and the need for stability. 

Sadly, Israel’s jurists do not believe in our democractic system. It is not enough for them. Their current proposition overlooks our democracy founded on the existence of free elections and transforms it into a system of government in which the jurists would decide who could run in elections, not the Israeli public.

We know that democracy is a system of government that has many drawbacks. But we also know that other systems of governments are much worse. This law hurts us, not Netanyahu. It is no coincidence that there are no parallel laws around the world. We hope it ends here.

First published in B’Sheva [Hebrew].

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Adv. Aharon Garber

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