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Electoral College in Yisrael

The Electoral College in Yisrael is a body of electors established by the 1952 Royal Reform Acts, constituted every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the Kingdom of Yisrael. The Electoral College consists of 192 electors, and an absolute majority of 97 electoral votes is required to win the election.

Each District legislature decides the method by which its electors are selected. In contrast to other electoral college systems abroad, Yisraeli law binds the electors to the winner of their District and thus avoids the problem of faithless electors. All eight Districts allocate their full cachet of Electoral Votes to the winner of the plurality majority of votes cast in the presidential election inside their jurisdiction. Within seven days after the final votes have been tabulated, each District's electors assemble in their District capitals and vote as pledged.

History

Electoral reform

In the aftermath of the horrific Year of Blood (1950-1951), political leaders in the short-lived interim Provisional Government of Yisrael and the early restored Kingdom of Yisrael sought to quash the populist appeal of extremist parties and figures that led to the rise of the Autocracy and the wildfire-spread of leftist thought among the lower strata. The victorious Constitutionalists were upper-middle-income men of the professions, and aimed to narrow the spectrum of political discourse to the moderate liberalism of their social strata. Not particularly religious, this clique largely hailed from the Masorti sector.

The Provisional Governing Council under Asher Berkowitz started putting together electoral reform proposals as the country voted in the March 3, 1952 national referendum that affirmed Berkowitz, then-acting Prime Minister from the pre-Autocracy order, into the newly created head of government office of President of Yisrael to replace the defunct Prime Ministership, which had irretrievably atrophied under the Azoulay era.

In the summer 1952, the restored Royal Knesset introduced a number of reform bills that would take effect at the next presidential election - Shevat 1 in 1956. Among these included abandoning first-past-the-post voting for proportional representation, a concept of fusion voting, a national jungle primary followed by a "top-two" instant runoff, stiff ballot access requirements, among other ideas. Joshua Green, a young Member of Knesset (CL-Beersheva), suggested an electoral college, studying how papal conclaves worked in the Fabrian Catholic Church as well as the elective monarchy model in the medievel-early modern Holy Aulic Empire and Belisarian states influenced by its model, including Garima and Lyncanestria, both of whom have their 'national monarchs' elected by a body of state monarchs.

Green Plan

Berkowitz and his clique of older Constitutional Liberals in the Knesset categorically rejected replacing the FPTP system with a proportional system, calling the move "meshuga [crazy]" in June 1952 during a meeting of the Knesset Special Committee on Electoral Reform. He and his allies likewise rejected a jungle primary/top two runoff, arguing that the proposal allowed too strident left- or right-wing parties a plausible chance to get into the top two and thus defeat the idea to keep out parties not in the political center, in their estimation being between center-left and center-right.

During debates in July, a Berkowitz ally, Chaim Oren (CL-Dervaylik), suggested a fusion-voting idea had merit to incentivize smaller parties to back the main parties. Oren's speech invoked wide approval of the idea in the committee, and Berkowitz, who was in attendance, reportedly nodded in agreement. In late July and early August, Green's electoral college idea increasingly drew interest from the Berkowitz clique, who liked its indirect and elite-oriented focus. On August 13, Green presented the proposal: an electoral college created from each of the eight districts of Yisrael, based on population. The plurality winner would win the electors of that district. The MKs from the population-heavy areas like the Western, Central, or Eastern Districts liked the idea, however, an unusual faction of southern and urban Con-Libs objected to the idea, presciently pointing out it left their districts, like the Southern and Northern Districts, or the city-districts of Yerushalayim and Dervalik, would be put at a significant disadvantage and at the political power of the more populated districts.

Southern compromise

The leader of the less-populated district faction was Vern Tessler, the senior 'dean' of the MKs from the Southern District. Tessler was a good friend of Berkowitz, and had endured two assassination attempts by Azoulayist agents in the 1940s after he fled Yisrael for Arthurista. He was tremendously respected and had political capital, so when he stood up during an August 16 meeting of the committee, heads turned. He asserted that the idea as it stood would put smaller districts at the mercy of the western and eastern frontiers, which had large, growing populations, as well as the Central District, long the dominant population center in the Kingdom. He tersely said without changes to even the political power between less and more populated districts, he and his faction would vote against the idea. His faction controlled close to half of Berkowitz's votes in Knesset, and the President knew it.

That weekend, Berkowitz, his top confidantes, and Green huddled and discussed how to proceed. One ally, Yerushalayim MK Zuriel Bauman, suggested giving the smaller districts "extra votes" subject to a threshold, an idea that caught immediate interest. Green shuttled the counter-proposal over to Tessler and his top confidantes, and they negotiated for another two days before agreeing to adding 10 extra Electoral Votes to each district with a population under 1.5 million. With Tessler's faction onboard, the Electoral Reform Act of 1952 was put to a floor vote and overwhelmingly passed in September 1952, with the new electoral college system to be setup to be first implemented for the upcoming presidential election scheduled for January 15, 1956.

Since 1956

Distribution of Electoral Votes by District

District Population Knesset Seats Extra EVs Final Electoral Vote Count
Northern District 454,098 3 10 13
Dervaylik District 1,302,885 9 10 19
Central District 6,874,231 48 N/A 48
Western District 5,412,976 38 N/A 38
Southern District 881,935 6 10 16
Yerushalayim District 1,431,566 10 10 20
Eastern District 3,483,677 24 N/A 24
Yarden Valley Special District 632,713 4 10 14

Two-party presidential system

As part of the the series of electoral reforms rolled out in the 1952 Royal Reform Acts to restrict extremist parties from re-entering Yisraeli political life, the Royal Knesset legalized fusion voting, whereby minor parties could cross-endorse the major parties' presidential nominees.

The effect of this measure was that second- and third-tier left-wing, right-wing, and centrist parties with representation in the Knesset could pool their votes towards one of the "first-tier" parties - either the Constitutional Liberal Party or the Royalist Conservatives. This created a de facto two-party system in presidential politics.

With the ongoing Centrist Revolt and the results of the only three-party presidential contest in 2020, political analysts debate whether the United Center Bloc has supplanted the Constitutional Liberal Party's Left Bloc political alliance as the major challenger to the ruling Conservatives, or whether the presidential system has entered a new, enduring three-party structure.

Elections since 2004

Electoral College results

Third-party impact

A list of second- and third-tier parties and their cross-endorsements and electoral impact since 2004:

Party Name / Political Position Cross-endorsement? Major-Party Endorsed District(s) Where Third-Party Contributed 5%+ Of the Vote To Major-Party Current Knesset Seats
Action Yisrael
(Center-to-Center-right)

2020: Yes
2016: Yes
2012: Yes1

2020:
Alternative for Yisrael
2016:
Royalist Conservative Party
2012:
Constitutional Liberal Party

2020: Central, Eastern, Western, Dervaylik, Southern
2016: Central, Eastern, Western, Yerushalayim, Dervaylik, Southern
2012: Central, Dervaylik, Western, Eastern
17
Alliance of Greens, Seculars, and Workers
(Left-wing)

2020: Yes
2016: Yes
2012: Yes2
2008: Yes2
2004: Yes2

2020: Constitutional Liberal Party
2016: Constitutional Liberal Party
2012: Constitutional Liberal Party
2008: Constitutional Liberal Party
2004: Constitutional Liberal Party
2020: Central, Dervaylik, Southern, Eastern, Western
2016: Central, Dervaylik
2012: Central, Dervaylik, Southern
2008: Central, Dervaylik, Western, Eastern
2004: Central, Dervaylik, Western, Eastern, Southern
1
League for New Judea
(Right-to-Far-right)

2020: Yes
2016: Yes
2012: Yes
2008: No3

2020:
Royalist Conservative Party
2016:
Royalist Conservative Party
2012:
Royalist Conservative Party
2008:
None

2020: Northern, Yarden Valley, Yerushalayim, Eastern, Western
2016: Northern, Yarden Valley, Yerushalayim, Eastern, Western
2012: Northern, Yarden Valley, Eastern
2008: N/A
2
National Union Party
(Right-wing)

2004: Yes4

2004:
Royalist Conservative Party

2004: Northern, Yarden Valley, Eastern
04
(Party no longer in existence)
Torah Achdus
(Right-wing)

2020: Yes
2016: Yes
2012: Yes5
2008: No5
2004: No5

2020:
Royalist Conservative Party
2016:
Royalist Conservative Party
2012:
Royalist Conservative Party
2008: None
2004: None
2020: Yerushalayim, Yarden Valley, Central, Western, Eastern
2016: Yerushalayim, Yarden Valley, Central, Western, Eastern
2012: Yerushalayim, Yarden Valley, Central, Western, Eastern
2008: N/A
2004: N/A
19
Yisraeli Christian Association6
(Center-to-Center-left)

2008: Yes
2004: Yes

2008: Constitutional Liberal Party
2004: Constitutional Liberal Party

2008: Northern, Yarden Valley, Eastern, Western, Yerushalayim
2004: Northern, Yarden Valley, Eastern, Western, Yerushalayim
06
(Party no longer in existence)

Notes
1. Action Yisrael was founded on May 24th, 2009.
2. The Alliance of Greens, Seculars, and Workers formed after the 2012 general election from the Yisraeli Labor Party and Green Party; however, cross-endorsements prior to 2012 are grouped together as both the YLP and GP cross-endorsed the same major party in these years.
3. The Northern League was moribund from the late 1980s until 2006, winning no seats in the Knesset and polling at less than 1% nationally and less than 10% in the Northern and Yarden Valley Special Districts. After the 2006 elections, David Touro won its leadership contest and rebuilt the party, entering Knesset in the 2008 elections as well as winning 5% of the national vote. However, neither party thought much of the League's rebranding and did not believe it would enter the political scene as a viable third-party. However, after its increasing gains in 2008 and 2010, the party was courted by both major parties. Touro eventually sided with Noah Feldman and the Conservatives.
4. The National Union Party merged with the Royalist Conservatives in 2006. The Northern League is thought to have picked up part of its political base with the League's rebuilding in 2006 and 2008.
5. Between the late 1980s and late 2000s, the Torah Achdus party was a transactional swing bloc whose votes were chased by both major parties. Although ideologically right-wing, the party's leadership prioritized state benefit and services procurement over ideology, and would align with whichever party would offer more benefits to the Chareidi community. This approach was called 'Valkenburgism', after Nechemia Valkenburger, its proponent. A new, younger generation challenged this internal party orthodoxy in the early 2000s and started to trend towards the Conservatives, though the Valkenburgist elder party statesmen still favored the party's longtime transactional electoral posture. These forces controlled the party executive committee (which issues endorsements) and cut a deal with Eitan Herzog and the Con-Libs to not endorse at all (otherwise the New Chareidi-aligned party faithful would demand a cross-endorsement of the Conservatives) in return for stronger kollel subsidies to Chareidi yeshivos and other benefits. However, this faction was ousted after the party lost ground in the 2008 election in the Knesset and District and local governments. A new Conservative-allied faction, the "New Chareidi," took control of the party leadership and began to cross-endorse the Conservatives since 2012.
6. The Yisraeli Christian Association was found to have illegal ties to anti-Yisrael terrorist groups the Christian Defense League and the Free Yarden Valley Catholic Front in the aftermath of the 2011 Yericho riots. Its MKs were arrested by the YeMep and the party banned under the Domestic Subversive Organizations Act before the 2012 elections.

Criticism

See also