Israeli Electoral System

How it developed and how it works.

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To take an example: Prior to each national election, the Labor Party will select in internal primaries a list of 120 Knesset candidates. If on Election Day a quarter of Israelis at the polls cast ballots for the Labor Party--the ballots identify only the party, not individuals--the Labor Party will be entitled to a quarter of the 120 seats in the Knesset, so that the first 30 persons appearing on its list will become Knesset members.

If the president calls upon the leader of the Labor Party to form a new government, he or she will enter into negotiations with other parties to form a coalition of at least 61 members, in order to ensure a majority of support in the Knesset. Depending on the distribution of seats to other parties, this could mean inviting several other parties to have their representatives serve as ministers in the government, until at least 61 Knesset members have joined the coalition.

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.