FOCUS: Israel’s Elections: What, When and How

A voting station in Tel Aviv. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Election Day in Israel will be on Tuesday, April 9/4 Nisan, which gives the political establishment barely three months to prepare for elections that, while not totally unexpected, are set to take place earlier than the June date most had expected.

On Tuesday, the Ministerial Law Committee approved a motion to disperse the Knesset. The law was prepared by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. With the approval, the bill passes to the Knesset Control Committee, which is expected to approve it later Tuesday for a Wednesday vote.

Committee chairperson MK Miki Zohar was quoted by Hadashot News as saying that he was considering holding up approval in order to force discussion on other pending bills, but despite that, it is expected that the committee will give the bill a green light. The bill could reach the Knesset as early as Wednesday, with its first, second, and third readings likely to take place on the same day.

Once that happens, the Knesset goes into “lame duck” mode. According to Israeli election laws, the Knesset will have about a week to wrap up old business, which means that any votes the government plans to bring to a vote must be presented by January 1st. Beginning the next day, official parliamentary activity ends, and Knesset committees disperse.

The next stage is the formation of the official lists of each party, which is set by a primary process. Currently, all parties expected to run have an official leader, except for the National Union, which in the current Knesset was part of Jewish Home. Most of the smaller parties – including Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Yisrael Beytenu and United Arab List – will not be holding primaries, with party lists determined by other means (in the case of chareidi parties, the list of candidates is determined by Gedolei Yisrael). The Likud, Labor, Jewish Home, and Meretz will hold primaries, all expected to take place in the next six weeks.

Once the lists are determined, they need to be submitted to election officials in order to be registered for the election. That deadline is 45 days before the election, February 21st. After that, parties begin their official advertising and media campaigns, with electronic media ads paid for by a government fund that is distributed to parties based on their size. The ads stop several days before the election, as do polls, which can no longer be published.

On April 5th, after the votes are counted, President Reuven Rivlin will begin the process of choosing who will lead the government, based on which party got the most votes and/or other factors that will lead to the formation of a government. After the new Prime Minister-elect is chosen, s/he will have 90 days to form a coalition – at which point the 21st Knesset will begin its work.