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Power corrupts

As you probably know, The Media Line has repeatedly suggested the Israeli political system and, a fortiori, its voting system are in drastic need of reform.

If you are looking for proof for this, well the Israeli version of the United Kingdom’s fraud squad has formally launched an inquiry into events surrounding last week’s primaries in Israel’s two largest political parties Labor and Likud.

While Labor is under investigation, it is the ruling Likud that is at the center of police and, needless to say, media attention. “There’s an obsession with trying to show balance when it comes to investigations,” Labor leader Amram Mitzna told reporters last night, in his bid to suggest Labor is innocent of vote rigging, or any other election offences.

While Likud’s lesser minions have all said if there is corruption in their party, those responsible must be punished, neither Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, nor Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have so far seen fit to comment on this hot potato.

No fewer than four Likud candidates for its national list ahead of the upcoming general election have gone public with their allegations. One serving Knesset member, Nehama Ronen, told reporters and, no doubt, police investigators she was approached by Likud activists who told her they would bring her votes in the primaries at a cost of anywhere between $200 and $250 per vote.

The main allegation against Labor is reportedly serving Knesset member Eli Ben-Menahem’s supposed financial offer to his rival for a place on the party list in return for his opponent’s withdrawal from the race.

There are three key reasons for the focus being on the Likud rather than Labor:
1. Likud is the party in power
2. it appears as though more crimes were committed during its primaries than those of Labor
3. some 105,000 people were eligible to vote in the Labor primary, but just 2,900 in the Likud.

One candidate on the Likud list told The Media Line that the Likud vote among members of its central committee rather than among all its card-carrying members (as is the case in Labor), is a democratic and fair system that promotes accountability. He based his claim on the fact that central committee members are elected to represent a specific constituency, be it geographic or by profession. Therefore, he argued, all the farmers on the committee have the knowledge and experience to decide who is best placed to serve their interests in the Knesset. “How can Labor’s 105,000 members judge who is best placed to serve the party?” he continued.

I will leave you to decide whether this is a valid argument.

The corruption in the Likud has been talked about for years. The ease with which a candidate in the party’s primaries can personally canvas all members of the central committee is a breeding ground for political corruption. Amongst the claims the police are currently investigating is the suggestion that one serving Knesset member and candidate for reelection rented a room in a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv and held a huge party for dozens of central committee members on the eve of the election. Some maintain that is not actually illegal. But it stinks. Elections should be about merit, about commitment to serve the general public, not about some 2,900 “old boys” backslapping and back scratching.

Political reform is essential in maintaining any democracy.