“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others,” Winston Churchill once famously said – and it is also among the most expensive forms of government, at least at election time in Israel. And the upcoming elections for the 21st Knesset are going to be no exception. Economists and experts quoted in Yisrael Hayom predicted that all told, the elections will cost the Israeli economy – and the Israeli taxpayer – some NIS 2.5 billion ($675 million).
NIS 1.5 billion of that alone is what the economy will lose in productivity due to the fact that many people will have the day off. Election Day, at least for Knesset elections, has traditionally been an unscheduled vacation day, in which workers get paid, but the day off is not deducted from their amassed numbers of days off.
The rest of the money will go to expenses surrounding the election itself. In order to prevent conflicts of interest and the influence of elections by the wealthy, the government pays for much of the expense of campaigning. Each MK is entitled to NIS 1.37 million in funding, for a total of NIS 164.4 million for all 120 MKs. However, some MKs – those who have worked as ministers, as well as those who are running for office for the first time – are also eligible for payments, so the full amount of payments for campaigning is likely to exceed NIS 200 million. In addition, because of the short period of time before elections, each MK is eligible for an additional NIS 82,000 of funding per month through the election. All that money is generally administered and spent by the parties MKs belong to.
The elections, had they been held as scheduled, would have taken place in November of next year, so many of the expenses MKs are eligible for have been fully funded for that period. That includes a budget MKs get for communicating with constituents. But since the elections have been moved up to April, MKs can now spend their full allocation by that date. Each MK thus gets a NIS 100,000 “bonus” because of that, adding another NIS 12 million to the election bill.
Besides the payments to individual MKs, parties get funding – and new parties, because they are just starting out, get some extra help. This comes in the form of a government-backed, low-interest loan, and parties that have never run for the Knesset are eligible to borrow up to NIS 6.7 million under this program. It is expected that up to six new parties will be competing, meaning another outlay of NIS 33.5 million. All this is, of course, in addition to the expenses associated with election day, including paying overtime to police, employing tens of thousands of poll workers, printing costs for ballots, posters, and guides, and so on.