Israel: What if there’s no coalition by tomorrow’s deadline?

The state of play

Yesterday, Yisrael Beiteinu rejected the offer of joining the next Israeli Government. Likud immediately signed a coalition agreement with Shas, leaving them with 53 coalition members and only one open negotiation – with Naftali Bennett and Jewish Home.

A couple of weeks ago, Bennett announced that handing over the Religious Affairs Ministry to Shas would mean the end of negotiations with Jewish Home. Well, that’s happened. Shas has the Ministry, and even got a control of the appointment of judges to the Rabbinic courts via the Justice Ministry.

Jewish Home was offered the Education Ministry and Diaspora Ministry for Bennett, the Culture and Sport Ministry for Ayelet Shaked, Agriculture and the settlement affairs division for Uri Ariel and (I think) a deputy defence minister. Then Liberman’s resignation shook things up. Suddenly there’s an extra senior role – Foreign Minister – up for grabs. Jewish Home was already unhappy with the coalition offer, but is now also insulted that the Foreign Minister role, originally denied to Naftali Bennett partly because Benjamin Netanyahu needed to keep Liberman on-board, is not being offered to Jewish Home.

Last night Likud gave Jewish Home’s negotiators an ultimatum – take our offer or leave it. After midnight, the Jewish Home faction meeting instructed Naftali Bennett to take over negotiating personally, also implying that they were calling Likud’s bluff. Jewish Home is now demanding that Bennett becomes either Foreign or Defence Minister or that Shaked is made Justice Minister.

Since then, apparently, Naftali Bennett is unreachable and has turned off his phone. Now, with 28 hours left until the expiry of the deadline to form a government, a major disagreement has still not been resolved and time is running out.


Most likely, someone will compromise and a deal will be done. I suspect that Likud is in a stronger position than Jewish Home, but we’ll see. But what if there isn’t a deal by Midnight on Thursday?

The law is simple, clear – and widely misunderstood.

By midnight on Thursday (ie Wednesday night), Netanyahu will have to do one of three things:

  1. Call President Reuven Rivlin and tell him that he has failed to form a Government that can win the confidence of the Knesset. If this happens, the President would ask someone else — almost certainly Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog — to try and form a coalition. This would almost certainly fail because the numbers aren’t there. There are provisions for a third MK to have a try, but if that doesn’t work then there are automatic new elections 90 days or so after the end of the road. New elections would mean new primaries, especially for Likud and Labour/Zionist Union. Both parties might face leadership challenges. Things could get very interesting and very messy, or nothing much could change.
  2. Do nothing. If Netanyahu doesn’t call Rivlin at all it’s considered that he failed to form a government and things proceed exactly as at point 1.
  3. Tell the President that he has formed government.

If Mr Netanyahu tells Rubi Rivlin that he has formed a government, then a new timer starts – 7 days. The Speaker of the Knesset (Likud MK Yuli Edelstein) must schedule a vote on the new government within 7 days of the announcement. However, Netanyahu doesn’t have to announce the full make-up of the Government to Rivlin, and Rivlin doesn’t have to check that it’s true, meaning that negotiations could continue for another week.

Those negotiations could be aimed at bringing either Jewish Home into a 61-seat coalition or the Zionist Union into a National Unity Government. But they could also theoretically be aimed at seeking support for the 53-member coalition as it stands today.

It works like this: The new government is presented to the Knesset. This is the actual government, the list of ministers and deputy-ministers, not the coalition: a government of twenty-something MKs. That list must be passed by a simple majority of the Knesset. It doesn’t need 61 votes. It just needs more MKs to vote for it than vote against it.

Could Netanyahu win support for a minority government? It’s possible. Jewish Home might be able to stay out of the coalition but I’m not sure they can directly vote to bring down Bibi and give Herzog a chance without damaging themselves in a second election. The same logic applies to Yisrael Beiteinu.

That would leave things exactly balanced: 14 MKs abstaining, 53 MKs voting for the government and 53 (from the ZU, Meretz, Yesh Atid and the Joint List) who would probably vote against.

If Likud can convince one extra MK to abstain then he has a Government. It’d be a dysfunctional, weak government that wouldn’t last very long until it needed more parties to join and support it. But so’s the 61-seat coalition deal with Jewish Home.

In those circumstances, the Zionist Union or (more likely) Yesh Atid might decide to allow Netanyahu to form a weak minority government in the hope of bringing him down later. Or they might just vote the government down, sending us back to Step 1 above.

Most likely, of course, is the 61-seat deal with Bennett sooner or later. It should all become clear by tomorrow night. Or in a week. Or so.

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Top 20 crazy and funny-named parties in the 2015 General Election

Conservatives. Labour. Liberal Democrats. Scotish National Party. UKIP.


Luckily, there are loads of parties standing candidates in the UK’s 2015 General Election. Here’s the 20 most interesting, funny and crazy-sounding parties, taken from this rather longer list of all ‘micro parties’. Read on:


1. (An) Independence From Europe

This breakaway party from UKIP founded by former MEP Mike Nattrass is best-known for having a silly and confusing name, stealing an old UKIP ad in 2014, and for confusing some UKIP voters into voting for it by mistake.


2. Above and Beyond – Demanding a New Vision for Politics – Trying To Fix A Broken System



The Above and Beyond Party has the longest full name of any of the parties, a logo, a website and is contesting 5 seats. It has only one policy – that there should be a “none of the above” option on General Election ballot papers and that this would fix politics, somehow.


3. Al-Zebabist Nation of OOOG

The party with the strangest name, the Al-Zebabist Nation of OOOG claims to be a “registered political party and growing religious movement” with a “divine mission to free the Afro-Thanetian Zaliphate from the grips of Broadstafarian and English hegemony” and urges “Renounce Your White Skin”. Russia Today profiles the party:

‘Led by Prophet Zebadiah Abu Obadiah, real name Robert Bealer, the Al-Zebab party is campaigning for the separation of Thanet from England, the banning of “hetro-marriage,” the legalization of heroin and the consumption dog meat.

One of their most controversial policies calls for the complete eradication of Broadstairs, a small coastal town in Thanet, which Al-Zebab says is rife with “racist and fascist ideology.”

The party also campaign for tax breaks for bearded families. Children and women will have to wear fake beards, Zebadiah said.’

In case it isn’t clear, the whole thing is a joke designed to troll UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who is the candidate in South Thanet.


4. Beer, Baccy and Scratchings

Originally the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet party, the Beer, Baccy and Scratchings party was forced to change its name because the Electoral Commission decided that the word ‘crumpet’ was obscene and demeaning to women. Its leader Ray Hall is contesting Eastleigh.


5. Children of the Atom

A one-man party which wants to replace all money with a new type of ‘debt-free’ currency and radically reduce the population. The party website claims “We are rewriting our manifesto because people just didn’t get it”


6. Eccentric Party of GB

Lord Toby Jug and some other guy

A Raving-Loony-style party running against Boris Johnson in Uxbridge. The candidate, Lord Toby Jug, is campaigning to get no votes at all, after betting against himself at 50/1.


7. Hoi Polloi

Another one-man party, Geoff Moseley is a photographer who’s contesting Hornsey and Wood Green for the second time. I just liked the party name – Hoi Palloi literally means “the people”.


8. Justice for Men and Boys (and the women who love them)

A Mens-Rights anti-feminist party, Justice for Men and Boys thinks that women are the problem. Policies include massively restricting abortion, banning circumcision and enforcing child-support payments when the father has signed a written agreement to support the child. But at least they have a funny and somewhat creepy name.


9. Magna Carta Conservation Party Great Britian




I’d hoped that the Magna Carta Conservation Party was devoted to ensuring that our few full copies of Magna Carta were properly cared for, stored in temperature-controlled rooms behind glass and perhaps restored if they got damaged. Unfortunately it seems to be one woman who’s very upset about something to do with planning permission in Woking.


10. Manston Airport Independent Party

I’ve only included this because I originally misread the name as the Manston Airport Independence Party, which would have been much more interesting.


11. Population Party UK

Another one-man party that wants to reduce the world’s population. Their party website includes a quote from the Queen (“There can be no long term stability when the rate of population growth exceeds the rate of job creation”) which seems to be fictitious.


12. Removing The Politicians

Also known as “Rebooting Democracy”, this party was established about a month ago by former Green candidate Keith Garrett. It aims to replace elected politicians with “a system in which we will use citizens’ panels and assemblies instead of politicians, selected in a similar manner to juries, that will use evidence based policy making to work towards the country’s short, medium and long term goals. These goals will be set by referendum mechanisms so we directly get to choose where we want our country to go“. He’s standing in Cambridge.


13. something new (nothing borrowed. nothing old. something new.)

One of the more confusing long names, Something New is another one of the ’21st Century politics’ parties. They have alliances with the Whigs (yes, there’s a Whig party), the Pirate Party and Removing the Politicians/Reboot Democracy.


14. Stop emotional child abuse, Vote Elmo

A gimmicky campaign in David Cameron’s Witney constituency, the ‘party’ is run by Bobby Smith who’s campaigning for more access to his children. His policies include twinning Witney with Houston, Texas, so that they could put up signs with “Witney Houston” on them.


15. The Birthday Party

Dave Dobbs from his previous campaign for Mayor of Bristol


A vehicle for David Field aka Dave Dobbs, a South-West England campaigner who wants to encourage more engagement in politics and whose main policy is to hope for a miracle.


16. The Roman Party.AVE

Founded by French bus-driver Pascual Jean-louis, the Roman Party contests elections in the Reading area. With no website or published manifesto, I have to figure out its policies from the leader’s Twitter account:


17. U Party

The U Party inspired me to write this list, after I saw it was standing a candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn. Rather uninterestingly, it seems to be a vehicle for pension lawyer Robin Ellison and wants to reform pensions.


18. The Ubunbu Party – Apolitical


The Ubuntu party was founded in South Africa last year and now seems to have branches all over the world. The UK branch promises to abolish the Bank of England and aims to awaken global consciousness to create a world without money. The party also has a conspiracist flavour; the party ran in South Africa with a Holocaust Denier highly-placed on the party list, and the UK party posts things like this:

if you had a relative in the 1st or 2nd world war its time you knew these wars were to make the banksters money, rothschilds buildersberg in a nut shell. so keep in mind there in control now. this cabal doesn’t care that our loved ones are dead down to their greed.

Posted by Ubuntu Party UK on Saturday, April 25, 2015


19. Vapers In Power

This isn’t the stoner party I expected. Vapers in Power is a single-issue party campaigning against restrictions on e-cigarettes, in particular the EU Tobacco Products Directive.


20. World Peace Through Song




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Could Galloway’s by-election victory have been voided like Rahman’s?

I’ve been reading the fascinating judgment(pdf) that today resulted in Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman being removed and barred from office and his election being voided.

The judgment is long but well-written and genuinely interesting. It covers a lot of ground specific to Tower Hamlets – internal Labour party splits, vote-tampering and personation, and the use of public funds to bribe Mr Rahman’s supporters.

The ruling also dealt with another element of English law that hasn’t been tested in court for a long time – that of undue spiritual influence in an election.

The Representation of the People Act 1983 s115 says that:

(2) A person shall be guilty of undue influence [on an election] —

(a) if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restraint, or inflicts or threatens to inflict, by himself or by any other person, any temporal or spiritual injury, damage, harm or loss upon or against any person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of that person having voted or refrained from voting;

This provision was originally passed to stop Roman Catholic clergy controlling Irish elections in the 19th Century by threatening their congregations with hellfire, but it has been repeately re-enacted and the Rahman ruling finds that it’s still in force.

The Rahman judgement (para 160) notes

…there is a line which should not be crossed between the free expression of political views and the use of the power and influence of religious office to convince the faithful that it is their religious duty to vote for or against a particular candidate. It does not matter whether the religious duty is expressed as a positive duty – ‘your allegiance to the faith demands that you vote for X’ – or a negative duty –‘if you vote for Y you will be damned in this world and the next’. The mischief at which s 115 is directed is the misuse of religion for political purposes.

The judgment goes on to fine Lutfur Rahman had broken this law by working with Muslim clerics who urged Muslims to vote for him.

This all sounded a bit familiar, and then I remembered why.


In 2012 George Galloway stood as a candidate in the Bradford West by-election. Bradford West is a majority Muslim seat. In the course of campaigning, Mr Galloway made the following comments to a largely-Muslim audience:


“I believe in the Judgment Day — not all of you do.

I believe that one day we will have to answer to the Almighty for what we did and what we did not do with the life that God gave us.

And I just say this and I ask you to say it, especially to other religious people:

how will you explain, on the Last Day, that you had a chance, on 29 March 2012, to vote either for the guy who led the great campaign against the slaughter of millions of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — you could have voted for him — but instead you voted because of village politics for a party which has killed a million Iraqis?”


This certainly sounds like a spiritual threat to people who might vote Labour.

According to Andrew Gilligan, at another rally on the same night Mr Galloway said:

“I’m a better Pakistani than he [my opponent] will ever be. God knows who’s a Muslim and who is not. And a man that’s never out of the pub shouldn’t be going around telling people you should vote for him because he’s a Muslim. A Muslim is ready to go to the US Senate, as I did, and to their face call them murderers, liars, thieves and criminals. A Muslim is somebody who’s not afraid of earthly power but who fears only the Judgment Day. I’m ready for that, I’m working for that and it’s the only thing I fear.”




A letter claiming to be from Mr Galloway was delivered to many houses in the constituency in the days running up to the election echoing these themes.



Should the 2012 by-election result in Bradford West have been voided like the Tower Hamlets result? I’m not sure. In the Rahman case it was Muslim clerics doing the spiritual influencing. Here it’s the candidate himself, who is not a Muslim religious authority. But it’s also a much starker and more straightforward spiritual ‘threat’ than the Rahman case.

It’s too late now, of course, with Parliament dissolved and another election underway. But Mr Galloway might have to campaign rather more carefully following the Rahman judgement.


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Election Day 2015 – early afternoon update

I voted this morning a bit after 10, so now I have time to speculate about what’s happening out in the country.

To be clear – I have no access to any exit polls or opnion polls since Friday — which is good, because it’s illegal to publicise them even if I did. Those last polls showed the Zionist Union opening up a big gap over Likud in the last week of the campaign.

BICOM’s poll of polls, prepared by me.

Since last Thursday night the Likud campaign has been in overdrive, with Benjamin Netanyahu doing more media interviews in one evening than in the last six years of his time as Prime Minister, talking up the Zionist Union’s chances and calling on right-wing voters to support Likud.

There is anecdotal evidence that this might be working, winning back voters from the Jewish Home party and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu.

That’s especially bad news for Jewish Home, which was polling at 15-17 seats in January and 11-12 on Thursday. If Mr Netanyahu wins a few seats from Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett’s party could end up doing rather worse than it did in 2013 when it won 12 seats. Some party sources say they’ll be down to single figures.

But it’d good news for Netanyahu.

Here’s my guess about what we’ll see, assuming all three smaller parties (Beiteinu, Meretz, Yachad) make the threshold. If they don’t then every party will increase proportionately.

  • Netanyahu’s frantic campaign and moves rightwards will have stopped the bleeding for Likud and might even help move the party up by a few seats. I reckon 23 or so.
  • Labour and Yesh Atid will benefit from anti-Bibi votes and votes as people come off the fence. Together they’ll be something like 40 seats, but the precise split will depend on how Tzipi Livni’s announcement last night that she’s willing to give up the rotating premiership plays.
  • Jewish Home is in trouble and will be down to at least 10 seats and probably single figures.
  • Kulanu is hard to call. If it does well than it will be taking votes from mainly Likud and possibly Shas at this point. It’ll probably get some “election surprise” seats to counter those Netanyahu has won back. So I reckon 10-12.
  • Likud is claiming massive 300% increases turnout in the Arab sector. That’s not the case — turnout is reportedly slightly up there but not as much as the Right is claiming. So I reckon the Joint List will do as expected at 13-14 seats.

Beyond that we’re into small parties and sectoral parties where things are harder to predict.

I may update later based on rumours and gossip as the day progresses.

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Mergers and rumours – Election roundup Sunday 25 January 2015

I know I was writing about list mergers a month ago, and here I am doing it all again. Luckily there’s only one more week of this until the lists are filed and mergers are impossible, but until then there are plenty of rumours:

For the past week there have been continual low-level rumours that a Likud/Bayit Yehudi merger was still a possibility and could happen within days. Any such deal would HAVE to happen by the end of the week when the lists are supposed to be finalised. There have even been polls that suggest that the merged party wouldn’t lose seats in the merger. The big winners would be Benjamin Netanyahu, who’d almost assure that he’d remain as Prime Minister after the election, and Naftali Bennett, who’d be well-positioned to take over from Mr Netanyahu if and when he does eventually retire. It’d basically be the same as the Likud/Beiteinu deal last election, which is why both parties are suspicious of it. I suspect Likud in particular would be resistant to any such deal but would find it hard to defy Mr Netanyahu during an election campaign.

Tonight, there are possibly-linked rumours that the leadership of Bayit Yehudi is going to refuse to unify with the Tekuma party. Bayit Yehudi and Tekuma ran a joint list last election, and a month ago Tekuma was planning to leave the list and join up with Eli Yishai’s Yachad Ha’am Itanu faction. The party decided to keep its partnership with Naftali Bennett, who offered Tekuma better-placed candidates as an enticement to stay. But it’s Tekuma candidates Orit Struck and Bezalel Smotrich that have been the most controversial people on the joint list, perhaps damaging Bayit Yehudi’s appeal to more-moderate voters. If Bayit Yehudi decides to kick out Tekuma now, Tekuma will surely join Eli Yishai after all, dragging his party over the electoral threshold, with probably no cost to those people on the Bennett-side of the joint list. Of course, it would also leave the way clearer for a merged list with Likud.

Another joint list is that between the two Arab parties and Hadash, running as the ‘Joint List’. The list has said it won’t join any government, but might recommend Issac Herzog as Prime Minister in an attempt to get rid of Mr Netanyahu

One merger that now isn’t happening is Kulanu and Yesh Atid. It seems that there were serious talks but ultimately Moshe Kahlon announced that his party would run alone.

The final rumour is barely more than a whisper of a whisper: If Likud joins up with Bayit Yehudi, then Yesh Atid might join with the Zionist Camp (aka Labour) to create a centre-left counterweight list.

All of this will have to be sorted by the end of the week. Nothing could change or everything could change.

Oh, and one party seems to be out: Moshe Feiglin left Likud announcing he’d run in the election as head of a new party. As of today there is no party and Mr Feiglin organised his son’s wedding on election day. So it’s pretty safe to say that he’ll be too busy to run an election campaign.

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