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Organisation : The Knesset in the Governing System
Facility : The Electoral System
Country : Israel
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Knesset Israel Electoral System

Israel has an electoral system based on nation-wide proportional representation. In other words, the number of seats that each list receives in the Knesset – the House of Representatives – is proportional to the number of votes it received.

Related : Environ Ireland Application for Correction of Details In Draft Register Of Electors :

Unlike most of the Western parliamentary democracies, the system in Israel is followed in an extreme manner, and the only limitation on a list which participated in the elections being elected is that it should pass the qualifying threshold, which is currently 3.25%.

(Until the elections to the 13th Knesset the qualifying threshold was only 1%. During the 16th Knesset, the law changed the threshold from 1.5% to 2%, and the 19th Knesset raised the threshold to 3.25%.).


The general framework for the elections was laid down in article 4 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, and according to it the Knesset is to be elected in general, country-wide, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections. This article can only be amended by a vote of a majority of the Knesset members.

The principle of country-wide elections states that Israel is a single electoral district insofar as the distribution of Knesset seats is concerned. Direct elections mean that the voter elects the Knesset directly, rather than an electoral college (as is the case in the election of the President in the United States).

Equal elections apply to equality amongst the votes given, and the Supreme Court laid down that the principle of equality relates to equality of opportunities for all the lists participating in the elections as well.

The principle of secrecy ensures fairness in the elections and aspires to prevent the placing of effective pressure on voters, since no one has any way of knowing how they actually voted.

The principle of proportionality manifests itself in that all the lists, which get past the qualifying threshold, are represented in the Knesset by a number of members which is proportional to their electoral strength.

Frequency of Elections

The Knesset elections are supposed to take place every four years. The Knesset can decide, by an ordinary majority, to dissolve itself and call for early elections.

Under the direct vote for Prime Minister system, the Prime Minister could notify the President of early elections. After the abolishment of that system, the Prime Minister can recommend to the President to call for early elections, but the Knesset can block that initiative.

The elections to the Second (1951), Fifth (1961), Tenth (1981), Eleventh (1984), Thirteenth (1992), Fourteenth (1996), Fifteenth (1999), Seventeenth (2006), and Eighteenth (2009) Knessets were all held before the due date by the Knesset’s initiative.

The Knesset can also decide, by a special majority, to prolong its term beyond four years. This happened in the case of the elections to the Eighth Knesset (1973) which were delayed because of the Yom Kippur War.

In either case of delayed or early elections, the newly formed Knesset is meant to serve a full four-year term from the date of elections as determined by the law, regardless of the election date.

Who Can Participate in Elections?

The contest in the elections is among lists of candidates. Since the Parties Law was passed in 1992, only a party, which has been legally registered with the Party Registrar, or an alignment of two or more registered parties, which have decided to run in the elections together, can present a list of candidates and participate in the elections (for example, in the elections for the fifteenth Knesset, the list “One Israel” was composed of three parties; Labor, Gesher and Meimad).

A party can informally add to its list bodies or personalities that are not members of the party and that are not registered themselves as a party (for example, in the elections for the fifteenth Knesset, the Unified Arab List included contenders from the Democratic Arab Party, a registered party, and individuals from the Islamic Movement, a non-registered party). The following lists may not run in the elections:

A list which acts directly or indirectly against the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or against its democratic nature; a list which incites racism; a list which supports the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.

Distribution of Seats

The lists that have passed the qualifying threshold receive a number of Knesset seats which is propotional to their electoral strength.

This is done by the division of valid votes given to the lists which passed the qualifying threshold, by 120, in order to determine how many votes entitle a list to a single seat.

In the elections to the second and seventh Knessets the excess votes (the votes received by a list which passed the qualifying threshold, but are not sufficient for a whole seat) were distributed to those lists which had the largest number of excess votes (the Hare method).

In the elections to the First Knesset, and since the elections to the Eighth Knesset, the excess votes are distributed to the lists with the largest number of voters per seat – a method known in the world as Hagenbach-Bischoff (de-Hondt), and is known in Israel as the Bader-Ofer method – named after MKs Yohanan Bader (Gahal) and Avraham Ofer (Alignment) who proposed its adoption.

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