Tag Archives: democracy

US 2016 Elections – from a small European country’s perspective

Just a few days until the US Presidential Elections. From a Small European Country the big circus on the other side of the pond seems unreal, like a Reality TV freak show. I guess its partly because most small European countries are governed by multi-party parliaments, where coalition governments are necessarily formed to achieve a majority. This usually softens the rough edges in politics, at least after the elections. The American “winner takes all” system creates a different vibe and a much more personal election race.

Which brings me to the personality of the candidates. I and many other Europeans wonder how and why the proud American democracy comes up with two such losers to compete for the most important office on the planet. Not only that, both are accompanied by VP candidates that are designed to be absolutely anonymous to the point of being interchangeable without anyone noticing. By now, the race is not about who’s the most suitable candidate – its obvious both are completely incompetent and shouldn’t be allowed to be president of anything except a Florida condo association. Its about who is the least repelling.

In the blue corner – an older, frailer version of Bill Clinton (how’s that for democracy – having two families run the country among themselves?), mired in corruption scandals and elected via a highly dubious process in her party, defeating a visibly crippled candidate, who obviously stood no chance in the national elections. In the red corner – a walking scandal with the emotional maturity of a 5-year old (“No, you’re the one that’s unfit” – yes, Donald, and why not add to it “My Shwartz is bigger than yours” – oh, I forgot, you already said that) and the credibility of Comical Ali. Come on, America, is that really the best you’ve got?

In all honesty, I don’t like Hillary Clinton. Few people do, not even her own husband it seems. My guess is that any Republican candidate would have taken this election by a huge margin with Hillary as the opponent. Anyone but The Donald. The dude looks more and more like a Democratic conspiracy to make Hillary look good. I never thought I’d say it, but with The Donald as the alternative, even I prefer Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.

Every time he seems to be on his way up, The Donald manages to ruin his chances with an almost supernatural mastery. On the other hand, despite his ridiculousness, he still stands a chance to win. Which is sort of funny, in the way watching YouTube videos of crashing skateboarders is funny. Only this time its the only superpower in the world with a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons that’s going to crash on its balls and land on its head. I do wonder what else The Donald has to do or say to discourage the people that still think that voting for the political equivalent of Armageddon is a good idea.

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A not so splendid isolation

Never was so much messed up for so many by so few. That pretty much sums the Brexit experience.

The post-Brexit referendum reality turned out to be worse than the gloomiest predictions. British stocks have taken a beating, the pound fell through a dark hole and the repercussions are being felt around Europe and the world. Nevertheless, these are the first panic reactions and it is best to wait for a while and see if things will be settling down. The long-term consequences are still unclear, but as a mental experiment, it is useful to try and catch a glimpse of what the future holds, based  on current trends. Fasten your seat belts, hold on to your hats and join me as we fast forward to… let’s say the year 2020.

Independence
The main slogan of Leave was “taking our country back”. What they did not mention was that “back” meant “300 years back”. Brexit meant independence alright. Scottish independence. As the negotiations between UK and the EU lead to nothing, Scotland voted to leave and declared its independence. Since it had already implemented all EU regulations and satisfied all demands, Scotland was welcomed immediately into the EU, on the condition it will join the Euro zone within 5 years. Empowered by Scotland’s success, Northern Ireland held  a similar referendum, with an extra question – join Ireland or become an independent state. They joined Ireland. Welsh nationalism saw a surge after Wales’ surprise victory at Euro 2016. English-Welsh tensions are reaching boiling point, as both countries are set to meet in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 at Wembley. Oddly, these developments “fix” the old mismatch. Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales were always members of UEFA and played international football while technically not being fully independent. As the UK and Britain are now history, the football countries now match UN member countries.

The economy
What economy? The economy of England has been annihilated. London banks left to Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin and Amsterdam. The credit rankings of England were slashed, leading to massive rise in national debt and falling pound caused a runaway inflation, only held in check by plummeting housing prices. Having failed to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU, England is now facing steep tariffs and taxes, pushing up the prices for imported goods like food and medicine. With the supply of Europe’s brightest students and staff to English universities cut off, tech companies are fleeing to the continent. Chinese, Indian and American students also no longer come, not wanting to study in a country that is cut off from its continent.

Immigration
Oh my. Brexit did stop EU immigration into England. With no agreement in place, EU citizens in England were given two years to apply for a job permit or leave. Not that most of them wanted to live any longer in a country plagued by the biggest recession in 300 years. EU countries each set their own rules with regard to English residing there. Most were lenient, bot some viewed the English pensioners as an easy prey and a cash cow, imposing new taxes on their savings and property. Many retirees were unable to meet the new regulations and returned to England, putting an extra strain on the NHS, already desperately understaffed after the doctors and nurses left to the EU. Tensions in Northern Ireland and Scotland caused massive English immigration into England, with the best and most capable choosing for Canada and Australia instead. Young and educated English are massively immigrating to Ireland, Scotland and mainland Europe, usually via the “Scottish route”, where they discover their Scottish roots that grant them the right to Scottish citizenship and free movement in the EU. The flight of the creative class has left parts of London, Manchester and other English cities ghost towns, only partly filled by remigrating pensioners.

All this is of course a doom scenario. The worse that could happen. But I’m afraid even 1/10th of the above will be devastating for England, Britain and possible Europe as well.

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I’m sorry, Boris…

In a few months, maybe even just a few weeks, Boris Johnson, PM, will be in Brussels, knocking on the door of the office of Jean-Cleadue Juncker, President of the European Commission.

– Come in, Boris (says JC).

-I come to negotiate (goes Boris).

-The terms of your surrender?

-Ha ha, very funny, JC. No, the terms of our new trade agreement.

-Oh, well, it was worth a shot. Have you handed in the forms that go with the application to withdraw from the EU, according to Article 50?

-Erhmmm… No, I haven’t. Is it really necessary?

-Well, Boris, let me see what I can do for you (pretends to be typing on his computer). I’m sorry, Boris, but COMPUTER SAYS NO!

At which point all other government leaders hiding in the corridor and eavesdropping through the door can’t hold themselves and burst in roaring laughter.

I hope someone will be smart enough to install a hidden camera. The look on Boris’ face – priceless.

 

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To Brexit or not to Brexit?

The Brexit referendum is looming, and this may (or may not) be a major milestone in European history. I was planning to write a serious, thoughtful article about this whole Brexit thing. How it might mean the end of the UK, with Scotland leaving to join the EU, and Northern Ireland following suit. I thought of mashing up that ridiculous, fear-mongering article Boris Johnson wrote about the Scottish referendum. You know, the one subtly titled “Scottish independence: Decapitate Britain, and we kill off the greatest political union ever”. Like, rewriting his article and replacing “Scottish” with “British”, and “Britain” with “European Union”. Would be fun to read Boris’ writing along the lines of:

Brexit: Decapitate the EU, and we kill off the greatest political union ever

By Boris Johnson

The British are on the verge of an act of self-mutilation that will trash our global identity.

Right: it’s time to speak for the European Union. If these polls are right, then we are on the verge of an utter catastrophe for this continent. In just 5 days’ time we could all be walking around like zombies – on both sides of the English Channel. I don’t just mean that we will be in a state of shock, though that will obviously be true: most people (especially the British) have yet to think through the horrific financial and constitutional implications of a British-EU divorce.

As I sat down to write my article, I started with a bit of background research. What is the referendum question, whether it is binding or not, that sort of things. Naturally, the first place I went to for information was Wikipedia. And then I realized, that I don’t need to write much about Brexit. One paragraph from the Wikipedia article about the Brexit referendum tells the whole story.

A Remain vote is supported by the British government, most economists, the leaders of the USA and the rest of the EU countries, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the G20, the IMF, and all living past and present Prime Ministers. The Leave campaign is supported by Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, UKIP, the UK fishing industry and James Dyson, the founder of Dyson.

So there you go. The UK government, the world leaders, financial institutions, thoroughly British businesses such as Rolls Royce and BAE Systems, historians, economists, healthcare professionals and scientists, and so on and on and on, all support Britain remaining in the European Union.

On the other hand, UKIP, the Communist Party, the majority of British fishermen, Aspall Cider (cidre manufacturing company), Go Ape (outdoor adventure company) and the Portsmouth City Council are in favour of Britain leaving the EU. And of course Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are also in favour of Brexit.

Dear Britons, in a few days it is up to you to decide on the future course of your country. Make up your own mind, and in case you’re still in doubt, the full list of endorsements is here. But do think of this – are a few more tons of fish worth it? Do you want to have a passport control booth on the border with Scotland? Is Putin the best of friends? When was the last time you agreed with the Communist Party? Right. Now stop being silly, would you?

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Israeli politics for dummies (2015 edition) – the morning after

Just a week ago, I’ve published a summary of the Israeli political system titled “Israeli politics for dummies (2015 edition)”. And its so good to be able to say “told you so”. The opinion polling in the run-up to the elections has failed spectacularly, again. This failure includes the exit polls, who predicted a draw between Likud and Zionist Union, with 27 seats for each – the outcome was… slightly different.

Benjamin Netaniyahu might keep his job after all.

The exit polls

Party name – results {exit polls} (last preliminary polls) [current number of seats]

Likud – 30 {27} (21) [31 – together with Yisrael Beiteinu]
Benjamin Netaniyahu, like a phoenix, has risen again from the ashes, and stands a real chance of retaining his seat as a PM. The clear winner of these elections, Likud has beaten the polls for who knows which time. In football they say “you play for 90 minutes and the Germans win”. In Israeli politics, apparently, you wait for the final results and Likud wins.

Zionist Union – 24 {27} (24) [21 – with Hatnua]
Isaac Herzog, the darling of the left, son of a President, the leader of the Zionist Union wakes up to a massive hangover. His campaign to oust Benjamin Netaniyahu seems to have been fruitless, despite support from pretty much everyone, including Barack Obama. Obama increasingly turns into King Midas, with the slight difference that everything he touches turns not into gold, but into shit. Still can’t eat it, and it smells. Perhaps Obama should stop supporting people.

The Joint Arab List – 13 {13} (13) [11-divided among 3 parties]
Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, will not be heading the opposition as a unity government of Likud and Zionist Union seems unlikely, which means the Zionist Union will lead the opposition. The Arabs of Israel have shown their true colours by refusing to pretend to support the Zionist left, making the Joint Arab List the third largest party in the Knesset. Whether their elected leaders will actually start taking responsibility, instead of shouting from the sidelines, remains to be seen.

Yesh Atid – 11 {12} (12) [19]
Yair Lapid is the shlemiel of these elections. Crash and burn – no other words. Having pulled the plug out of the cabinet Yesh Atid (“There is a future”), can now change its name into “No Future”.

Jewish Home – 8 {8} (11) [12]
Naftali Bennett was the first person who Benjamin Netaniyahu has called after the exit polls. The Jewish Home has paid the price for keeping Likud in power, but Netaniyahu will reward its political frenemies.

Kulanu – 10 {10} (9) [0]
Moshe Kahlon considers himself a longstanding member of both Israel’s “national camp” and its “social camp”, so he can be appropriately described as a national-socialist. Not the best of associations, but he’s got only himself to blame here. His populist agenda has put him in the head of a major political party. Based on the exit polls, Kulanu was in the position to make or break governments. The final results though give Bibi a wide array of options to choose from, and Kulanu will have to work hard to prove its a reliable partner.

Shas – 7 {7} (7) [11]
Aryeh Deri is the other phoenix of Israeli politics. Convicted for corruption, he served major jail time, returned to head Shas, and has split with former “crown prince” Eli Yishai. The split has left Shas critically injured but alive. Yishai seems to have bet “all in” and lost (see below).

United Torah Judaism – 6 {6} (6) [7]
Yaakov Litzman‘s ultraorthodox party was left out of the previous government. This time, things might be different. But there are long-terms concerns. The huge increase in potential voters due to explosive birth rates in the ultraorthodox community has not increased the party’s political power. Is the youth secretly voting against the advice of the Rabbi’s?

Yisrael Beiteinu – 6 {5} (5) [together with Likud]
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister and the left’s favourite boogie man, has all the reasons to be pleased. And he will probably be rewarded for his support of Bibi by being offered any post he wishes (Minister of Defence, that is).

Meretz – 5 {5} (5) [6]
Zahava Gal-On is the first casualty of the results. Barely passing the electoral threshold, she admitted failure and resigned. With the Arab support waning, the party is increasingly out of touch with reality. Its most vocal supporter, the antisemitic Jew, Haaretz writer Gideon Levi has already said that “if this is what the nation wants, we need a new nation”. With this kind of attitude Meretz will not be in the next Knesset.

Yachad – 0 {0} (4) [0]
The Israeli extreme right has learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. In 1992, Tehiya has just missed on seats in the 13th Knesset, leading to the loss of the right-block’s majority and indirectly causing the disaster of the Oslo Agreements. Exactly as I thought last week, the extreme right, this time as “Yachad”, just failed to pass the electoral threshold. Again. The right-block is still victorious, but not thanks to Yachad.

The final results

When all the votes will be counted, the picture might still look different. The Bader-Offer method and the surplus-votes agreements can add or subtract a seat or two, just tipping off the balance of power. But the changes will be minor, if any. What’s next?

The coalitions

Since no party has the majority, a coalition government has to be formed. And its not as simple as the largest party providing the PM. After consulting the fraction leaders, the President assigns the task of forming a government on one of the MP’s. That person has to try and put together a coalition, that is to say, find at least 61 MP’s to have a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. Here are some possible arrangements:

National Unity Government – Likud-Zionist Union-Yesh Atid/Kulanu/both – 65/64/75 seats
The exit polls indicated this a likely scenario, albeit one that would require the partners to swallow a huge amount of pride and forget an even bigger amount of pre-election insults. The final result, though, is Likud’s resounding victory, and a right-wing coalition is much more likely.

Same-same but (a bit) different – Likud-Yesh Atid-Kulanu-Jewish Home-Yisrael Beiteinu – 65 seats
Presuming that the 10 seats of Kulanu are gained from the losses of Likud and Yesh Atid, the partners in the previous coalition have now together approximately the same amount of seats they had before the elections. Find the coalition agreement from the previous elections, re-print it and put the same people back on the same posts. Probably the cheapest option and apparently what the voters want. With 5 members, perhaps a bit too wobbly to be a first choice. And Yesh Atid is not exactly Bibi’s favourite after they brought down his last cabinet from the inside.

Anyone but Bibi – Zionist Union-Yesh Atid-Kulanu-Jewish Home-Israel Beiteinu – 59 seats
Based on the exit polls, there was a possibility that in an attempt to be true to its name, the Zionist Union could try and forge a union of Zionists with centrist, right secular and mildly religious parties. This betrayal of its traditional ally Meretz would not go down well with the party’s left wing, but again – its politics, so a scenario that includes a betrayal was actually more, not less, likely. The final results mean that the Zionist Union will not be forming the coalition, as there is almost no possible way in which it could get a majority.

Left-winged with a vengeance – Zionist Union-Joint Arab List-Yesh Atid-Kulanu-Meretz – 63 seats
Theoretically, a left-leaning coalition is possible. In reality, the Joint Arab List will not sit in a Zionist government, and even if it would, Kulanu would probably refuse to join to such a coalition.

All-right – Likud-Kulanu-Jewish Home-Shas-United Torah-Yisrael Beiteinu – 67 seats
This is the coalition that is most likely at the moment, as the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid are too shell-shocked to be even considered and have said too many times they won’t sit in Bibi’s government. But the right-religious-nationalist camp is splintered and shattered. And there’s no love lost between its members. Besides, a coalition of 6 parties that can be toppled by any of its members – such a house of cards is too difficult even for Bibi to build and hold together. And satisfying the substantial financial demands of the ultraorthodox parties and the national-socialist populist agenda of Kulanu (pun intended) might break the back of Israel’s economy.

So Israeli legislative elections 2015 – drama? Yes. Surprises? Plenty. Newcomers? In abundance. Real change? No. The winners are the same (Likud), the losers too (Labour and extreme right). When are the next elections?

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Why I don’t vote in 3 (actually, 4) elections this week

This week, there are 3 elections I could have participated in (and one indirect election). And I will vote in none. Here’s why.

Israeli legislative election on the 17th of March
This one’s easy – I can’t. Israeli law only allows citizens of Israel to vote in Israel. In other countries, one can vote abroad or, like in the Netherlands, authorise someone else to vote for you. Not in Israel. You actually have to be in the country and vote in your place of residence, unless you are a diplomat or an air crew member or something. Actually, I don’t mind. I’ve been living outside of Israel for the past 12 years and I see a logic in only giving the people that actually live there the right to vote over the country’s future and the spending of their taxes.

Dutch provincial elections, on the 18th of March
On the 18th I get to vote in the provincial elections. The Dutch provinces are the administrative layer supposed to be taking care of the tasks too big for the municipalities but too petty for the national government. I could not name a single person in the elective body governing my province if my life depended on it. And I am not alone in it – the vast majority of the Dutch have no idea who takes seat in the provincial ruling body, what their tasks are and how they do these tasks. The province is a fossil remain of times long gone, and as far as I can tell it can be abolished ASAP, and no one would notice. Tasks too big for municipalities to handle can and are being handled perfectly well by (cross-border) regional co-operations of several neighbouring municipalities. The only reason the country is even aware of the provincial elections is because the Provincial Deputees elect the Senate, the upper house of the Dutch parliament, a council of old fools who get to approve or disapprove any laws voted on by the Tweede Kamer, the actual national parliament. As a consequence, all debates in the run-up to the provincial elections have focused on nation-wide issues, and not a word has been said on the reason to have provinces in the first place.

District water board elections, held together with the provincial elections on the 18th of March

This is where, as the Dutch say, “my clog breaks”. Get this – I get a say in what political parties are ruling the ground water levels! I mean – really? Its the oldest Dutch democratically elected body, and its very obviously one that is long past its due date. We don’t get a vote on who’s mending the road surfaces or monitors the air traffic, do we? We’ve got professionals to do these sort of things nowadays. The participation rates in the water board elections are even lower than in the provincial elections. Only about 1/4th of the voters bother. I’d say it it a clear sign these elections are irrelevant. The water boards, on the other hand, defend their right to exist by saying “if only the public knew how important our job is, they would vote”.

Drilling an ATES well. You don't want to know the amount of paperwork involved.

Drilling an ATES well. You don’t want to know the amount of paperwork involved.

Well, I know. I am a geohydrologist and I have had ample opportunity to work with water boards. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they are perfectly useless. We do need people to manage ground water levels and monitor possible sources of pollution. Its just that we do not need so many of them. Allow me to illustrate with an example. Say you want to drill a well. You need a permit. Not one, no. Depending on the depth of your well, the soil layer you are aiming for, the use of the water you will pump (industry, drinking water, irrigation etc.), the amount of water you will pump and other details I will not bother you with, you’d have to deal with the municipality, the water board, the province, the national water authority, one or several Ministry’s, and, if your project is big enough, the European Union. I can tell you from experience that among these people there is a huge amount of overlap. And conflict of interests. Not to mention random variation in laws and regulation across local, provincial and water board borders. So why would I vote for a governing body I consider totally irrelevant?

I know, there are people out there who are fighting for their right to vote. But I get to vote in elections I couldn’t care less about and can’t vote for the people I actually consider important. How about electing my local mayor? In case you didn’t know, in the Netherlands, the mayors and the heads of province are actually appointed by the Dutch Crown. Hello? 21st century calling? Not in the Netherlands, it’s not.

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Israeli politics for dummies (2015 edition)

With voting taking place in just 1 week, on Tuesday, the 17th of March 2015, the elections campaign for the twentieth Knesset has entered its final stretch. And as usual with Israeli elections, predictions about the outcome and its consequences are worth less than the paper they are printed on. As any follower of Israeli politics knows, expecting the unexpected is a must. But even on the Israeli scale of surprising results, next week’s vote might turn a big surprise. It just might be that the next Knesset (the Israeli parliament) will not be as fragmented as it used to be.

Read on and this will make (at least some) sense! Image source – Wikipedia

The reason is that the electoral threshold has been raised from 2% to 3.25%, meaning that a party should win at least 4 rather than 2 seats to be in the Knesset (out of 120 in total). Many parties running, both established ones and newcomers (Meretz and Yahad, see below) are balancing just above the threshold. With that in mind, voters may at the last moment cast their ballot for a party that is sure to get into the Knesset, rather than risk having their vote lost with a party that just couldn’t make it. Other factors that complicate the eventual outcome are the application of the Bader-Offer method and the surplus-votes agreements. I’ll spare you the technical details, but it comes down to a slight favouring of bigger parties. So, the Likud got 38 rather than 36 seats in the 2003 elections after the numbers were crunched.

The surprising outcomes are not only a function of technicalities though. The main source of surprises is that Israeli politics is very poorly understood outside Israel. The way I see it there are 3 causes for the failure to understand Israeli politics.

Firstly, most coverage comes from left-wing affiliates. So, Omri Marcus, an Israeli who wrote a guide to “Israeli Politics for Dummies“, has named no less than 3 right-wing parties in Israel “extreme” and guess how many left-wing parties got that title? Right, zero! Not even the communists of Hadash were deemed worthy of the “extreme” label by Omri.

Secondly, It’s the economy, stupid. The Israeli politics is almost uniformly framed as revolving around security in the international media. Yet the Israeli governments usually fall on economic issues and election campaigns are largely focused on social-economical topics like the high cost of living, taxes and child support. Since this aspect of Israeli politics is by and large ignored outside Israel, outcomes of the elections do not fail to come as a surprise.

But the third and perhaps main reason the Israeli elections are so confusing is that, well, there’s just too much going on. This time, there are no less than 25 parties participating, with 10 or 11 standing a real chance of scoring seats in the Knesset. Granted, 25 is less than the over 30 that participated in previous campaigns, but its still a huge amount to choose from.

To enable understanding Israeli politics would take more than a blog post. But I will try to make the Israeli political map a bit more understandable, by presenting some definitions and the main actors, discussing them, where possible, in more general political terms. Without further ado, here’s my best attempt to make sense of Israeli politics.

The political map

Left-Right
The classical definitions of “left” and “right” apply in Israel as well. The “left” is pro-state involvement and government spending, the “right” is about privatization and less taxes. In security terms, as elsewhere, the “left” and “right” are “doves” and “hawks“. In Israel, in addition to traditional opinions on crime and immigration this means the “right” is Jewish-nationalist or Zionist and the “left” is… well, slightly less fervently Zionist. And, of course, there are the Arab parties, which are anti-Zionist.

Black-white
At least part of the Israeli politics is arranged around ethnic lines. In the Jewish majority the “black” are the Sefardi Jews and the “white” are Ashkenazi. With the ethnic divisions being rapidly erased as Jews of different origins happily intermarry, the division becomes less pronounced, with some notable exceptions (see below). The black-white division correlates slightly with the left-right, Sefardi Jews being on average poorer, less educated and more right-wing oriented than Ashkenazi.

Religious-secular
Religion plays a large role in Israeli politics, with at least 4 of the 10-11 main parties including a significant Jewish religious component, supplemented by the Arab Islamist party. Most Jewish religious parties are nationalistic, but their economic platform ranges from ethno-socialism to more republican-style views.

The main players (with the number of seats in the latest poll)

Likud (22)
Despite what some would like you to believe, Likud is nothing like the Tea Party. In social-economical terms Israel is more European than American and Likud is a classical central-right movement that can be best compared to the British Conservatives, the German Christian-Democrats or the milder Republicans.

Zionist Union (24)
The split and fractured remains of the Israeli Labour party have re-united for the 2015 elections under their traditional banner “anything but Bibi [Netaniyahu]”. A classical Social-Democratic central-left party (left-wing Democrats in the US).

The Joint Arab List (13)
Recognizing the very real possibility of being wiped out by the elevated electoral threshold, 4 Arab parties have formed an unholy alliance of Arab nationalists, Islamists and Communists, united only by their rejection of Israel as a Jewish state. Syriza is the best parallel, although if there’s one sure thing in Israel is that the Joint Arab List is not going to be a member of the coalition government.

Yesh Atid (12)
A secular centrist party, that came out of nowhere to become the second-largest party in the outgoing Knesset. As usual with secular centrist parties in Israel, is going nowhere after having failed to achieve any of its goals despite being a major coalition partner with Likud. Comparable to European Liberal-Democrats, or the right-wing of the Democratic Party in the US.

Jewish Home (12)
As you probably guessed from its name, a Jewish nationalist-religious party. Its economic agenda is more right-wing than that of other religious parties, so its probably comparable to the right-wing of the Christian-Democrats or mainstream Republicans.

Kulanu (9)
This campaign’s centrist newcomer. Formed, as usual, by a Likud fugitive who is unsure of most things except wanting to head his own political movement. See Yesh Atid.

Shas (7)
A Sefardi (“black”) Jewish ultra-orthodox religious party. Its program is a unique blend of social demands with religious propaganda. The “left-right” definitions fail here as Shas will sit in any government that will provide its MP’s a reach into the public funds.

United Torah Judaism (6)
The Ashkenazi (“white”) branch of Jewish ultra-orthodoxy. See Shas.

Yisrael Beiteinu (5)
Rather unique bird in Israeli politics, this is a secular right-wing party. Rapidly disappearing as its Soviet-made electorate assimilates into the Israeli society. Has a love-hate relationship with Likud, as the two keep merging and splitting.

Meretz (5)
The last remains of the Israeli left. Dreamy left-wing extremists, attempting to save themselves from (political) extinction by including a green agenda, much as the European Green-Left movements are doing. With about the same very limited success.

Yachad (4)
A splinter-movement of Shas, running together with the scarier components of Jewish right-wing extremism. Stand a real chance of just failing to pass the electoral threshold. Again.

BARUCH2

That’s me (on the right) in Hebron, with Baruch Marzel, the scarier component of Jewish right-wing extremism. This was way back in 2001, apparently he lost a lot of weight since. I do not support his views. I think he’s a fool.

The Day After

If you thought the Israeli politics was confusing, wait until the day after the elections, when the dust has settled and the seats in the Knesset have been divided. Since Israel has a multi-party system, and no party ever gets a majority, a coalition has to be formed. Whether the polls are accurate or not, it seems as if even the two biggest parties (Likud and Zionist Union) will get less than a 1/5th of the seats each. In the most optimistic scenario where they bridge their deep divisions and overcome the mutual resentment, they will need a third partner to achieve a majority. Yesh Atid is the most likely candidate, but even that might not be enough for 61 (out of 120) seats. Any other coalition will have to bring together at least 4 parties and be an even less probable combination of political views. All I can say is stay tuned for what may very well be the best show on Earth!

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