DIRECT ELECTION OF THE PRIME MINISTER
Israel's prime minister, for the first time, will be elected in the same national general elections, by a separate, direct ballot. The ballot will be of a different color, and list only the candidate's name.
The candidate for prime minister may be nominated by a party, or parties, with at least 10 seats in the outgoing Knesset, or by 50,000 enfranchised persons. The candidate must be a citizen at least 30 years of age, and heads his/her party's list of candidates for the Knesset. If the outgoing prime minister has served for seven consecutive years, he/she may not stand for re-election.
Upon publication of the results of the elections for prime minister, the candidate who receives more than half of the valid votes is the elected prime minister.
- Should no candidate receive more than half the valid votes, run-off elections will be held between the two candidates with the most votes 14 days after the first round of elections. In the return elections, the candidate receiving the largest number of valid votes will become prime minister.
- Should one of the candidates die or become unable to participate in the run-off elections for health reasons, another may be nominated by his party, no later than 96 hours before the scheduled elections. However, should one of the candidates in the run-off elections resign, the next candidate with the next largest number of valid votes shall replace him in the run-off.
- Should there be only one candidate for prime minister, in either round of elections, the vote shall be cast for or against such candidacy. If the number of valid votes for the candidate is higher than the number of valid votes against - the candidate is elected.
- Should no candidate be elected, new elections will be held for prime minister only.
Within 45 days of the publication of the election results, the prime minister-elect will present his/her list of ministers and basic policy guidelines before the Knesset, asking for its confidence. The number of ministers, including the prime minister, may not exceed eighteen, nor be less than eight. At least half of the ministers must be Knesset members, but all must be eligible for Knesset membership. Deputy ministers may be appointed, up to a total of six, and must be Knesset members. (Under the new law, the Knesset may remove a minister from his post by vote of a majority of 70 MKs.)
Should the prime minister elect fail to present a government to the Knesset, special elections for prime minister will be held within 60 days. Should the same candidate once again be elected and once again fail to present a government within 45 days, that candidate may not stand for election in the third round of elections for prime minister.
The prime minister's term of office corresponds to that of the Knesset, except when Knesset elections must be repeated (i.e. as a result of faulty elections) or where the law calls for special elections for prime minister.
HOW DOES THE KNESSET WORK?
A new Knesset begins to function after general elections. The first session is opened by the president, who yields the chair to the oldest member. The Knesset members declare their allegiance, and the speaker of the Knesset and his deputies are elected.
The Knesset holds two sessions a year, one in the winter and one in the summer, which together must last for at least eight months. An extraordinary session may be called during recess, either by the government or by any 30 members of Knesset.
The Knesset is elected for a tenure of four years, but may dissolve itself or be dissolved by the prime minister before the end of its term. Unless early elections are called, elections to the Knesset take place on the third Tuesday of the month of Heshvan in the year in which the tenure of the outgoing Knesset ends.
With the inauguration of direct elections for prime minister, procedures for dissolving the Knesset have been amended.
New elections for the Knesset and the prime minister, are held when:
- The Knesset rejects the list of ministers proposed by the prime minister;
- The Knesset expresses no-confidence in the prime minister, by a majority of at least 61 MKs;
- The Knesset fails to adopt the Budget Law within three months after the beginning of the fiscal year;
- The Knesset dissolves itself by passing a special law to that effect;
- The prime minister, after notifying the President, resigns and dissolves the Knesset (e.g. if a "hostile" Knesset prevents the proper functioning of the government).
Special elections for the prime minister shall be held when:
- The Knesset (by a special majority of 80 members) votes to remove the prime minister from office;
- The Knesset removes the prime minister from office (by a majority vote) due to conviction on an offense involving moral turpitude;
- The prime minister is unable to appoint the specified minimum of eight ministers to form his government;
The prime minister has died, or is permanently unable to fulfill his functions.
With the inauguration of direct election for prime minister in Israel, questions naturally arise as to how the new system will work. Will the Knesset be weakened by the greater independence granted to the prime minister? How will the prime minister and government function if the opposition wins a majority in the Knesset?
While nobody has clear answers, these provisions of the law do supply "checks and balances" designed to maintain the equilibrium in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.