New ‘Primaries Law’ Provides Public Funding for Knesset Candidates

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Knesset building in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

No longer will MKs have to raise money for their own political campaigns. The Knesset overnight Monday approved on its second and third ready the “Primaries Law,” which will provide public funding for candidates for the Knesset, obviating the need for private fundraising. The law will provide public funding for current MKs who are seeking to remain on their party’s list in the next election.

According to the law, MKs will no longer raise money from private sources.

New candidates will be eligible to receive a low-interest loan from the state, but will also be allowed to raise funds from the public. If the candidate makes it to the Knesset, the loan would be converted into a grant, and they would be eligible for public funding for the next round of electioneering.

In either event, both MKs and new candidates would be able to receive an amount only up to the legal amount a Knesset candidate is allowed to raise for their campaign.

The law was first proposed by MK David Bitan (Likud). According to Bitan, “the primary system, which entails requiring candidates to go through many primary contests, has many positive aspects, but along with those come a slew of problems, such as the constant need to raise money, get donations and limit expenses. The current system favors those with deep pockets, requiring outlays of tens or even hundreds of thousands of shekels, and encourages candidates to be dependent on persons of means. This law will prevent those problems from weighing on the political system.”

The law has wide-ranging support among MKs, with MKs from the coalition, as well as Meretz and Zionist Camp supporting it. Speaking to Hadashot News, MK Shelly Yechimovich (Zionist Camp) said that despite her personal preference to avoid receiving gifts, she had no choice but to raise money. “I used crowdfunding to raise money for my last four campaigns, in order to avoid a situation where I would be dependent on donors,” she said. “I am obligated to my personal donors, but also to the thousands of people who donated to my campaign via crowdfunding. This way I can honestly feel that I am not obligated to the ten rich people who funded my campaign, and thus feel they have some claim on me.”