Jan 1, 2018

refusing to offset the vote in Knesset

The Knesset is set to vote today on the "minimarket law" that would give the Minister of Interior the right to reject a municipal law, including a law passed to allow businesses to open no Shabbos.

The coalition is running into a problem. MK Yehuda Glick's wife passed away this morning and Glick, obviously, will not be able to participate in the vote. The coalition has been having trouble garnering enough support for this bill and if it passes it will be by the skin of its teeth. Losing an MK that would vote for this bill, hurts the chances of it passing. And, this is in addition to MK David Azulai from Shas who is still hospitalized.

Normally there is an unofficial arrangement in the Knesset by which when MKs from either side are unable to attend a vote, an MK from the other side will offset that and not participate as well. In this vote today, the coalition MKs are refusing to agree to offset the ranks for Glick (and Azulai).

I would note that a couple of weeks ago when the minimarket law came up for ts initial reading, opposition MKs also refused to offset the vote for Azulai who had just been hospitalized. At the last moment Meretz chairman Ilan Gilon showed compassion and said that being moral and human is more important than taking advantage of the moment and agreed to offset Azulai's vote.

Notwithstanding my following question, being that such an arrangement does exist and is almost always followed, it is immoral for them to refuse to offset the vote and take advantage like this of the passing of Yaffa Glick. This is not even as important a vote as they are making it out to be because we all know it will pass and legal counsel in the government has said it will be applied retroactively as well.

In normal situations, not including today's vote, I would mention that I never really understood the concept of offsetting the vote for missing MKs. Why is it the moral obligation of the opposition MKs to help a coalition law, that they oppose, to pass? If the coalition doesn't have the necessary votes, for whatever reason, they can delay the vote until they get the numbers. Why does it fall on the opposition's shoulders? They normally both gain from the arrangement as neither side needs to be overly pressured to make sure they have full attendance - but to turn that into some moral obligation that has to be followed? I don't get that..

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  1. Vote pairing is an accepted practise in many parliaments around the world. It allows the balance of power to remain the same, when a member of the parliament is unable to attend a vote. When vote pairing is done, it does note matter if the missing member is from the government or opposition side.

    For example: Members of the Government are away on important Government business. Without vote pairing there could a scenario where the Opposition passes their own legislation that would not have passed otherwise. Those members of the Government would then be forced to choose between allowing the legislation to pass or abandoning important government business.

    From the Canadian Gov't:
    Pairing is a practice whereby the party Whips arrange for two Members from opposite sides of the House to agree that they will abstain from voting on a particular occasion to permit one or both to be absent from the House. In this way, their votes are effectively neutralized and the relative strength of their parties in the House maintains its balance.

  2. yes, but why should the opposition want to keep the balance of power the same? why would the coalition want it either? coalition wants more power and opposition wants the coalition to have less power

    1. Because there will inevitably come a time when they'll need the same courtesy.

    2. when would the opposition need the same courtesy? for what purpose? the coalition will help the opposition block a law the coalition wants passed?

      they should all just do their jobs. the coalition should do what they can to pass their laws and the opposition should do what they can to stop the laws they dont like

    3. Plenty of bills don't pass, so yes - the coalition will help the opposition block a bill. You're also forgetting that opposition parties often make it to the coalition.

      This is part of their jobs. Getting bills passed by taking advantage of temporary situations is not their job. (Also, bear in mind that there are other ways around this, like rescheduling votes, etc., which just delay the work of the Knesset, which is not anyone's job to see to. Having this arrangement keeps things running smoothly.)

    4. The purpose of the government is to govern. A number of laws have been passed/proposed in the last few years to facilitate that end. Changing the rules on confidence votes, raising the vote threshold, Norwegian Law are designed to help the government function efficiently.

      The opposition also play an important role in the government. They help shape legislation through committees, ability to expedite or slow down various pieces of legislation and public interaction. (Not everything is a partisan issue). They also hold the government accountable for their actions.

      There are plenty of opportunities for the opposition to use 48+ hours filibusters on more important pieces of legislation. Vote pairing allows the government to handle day to day business without being bogged down on unnecessary technicalities. It makes sure that the outcome of the vote represents the will of the voters as opposed to technical issue like an MKs health. Keep in mind that MKs are all coworkers. They tend to get along better than the partisan pandering that the media focuses on.


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