New Article- The Local and the Central Print E-mail

The Local and the Central, a new article by Prof. Rubinstein - summary in English



The Israeli government is perceived by the Israeli public as suffering from a lack of political stability, effectiveness and legitimacy.

This perception stems – so we suggest – inter alia from the purely proportional electoral system which prevails in the country.

On the other hand, in 1975, the electoral system relating to the local government was totally reformed – by replacing the up-to-then system of electing mayors by local council members, with direct election of mayors. This article finds that in 15 local authorities, which are independent financially (i.e. do not rely on ex gratia governmental assistance) the situation is much better than that of the central government in all aspects: citizens’ satisfaction, effectiveness and legitimacy.

In our view, this discrepancy is explicable mainly, but not exclusively, by the 1975 reform. Direct elections of mayors have proved to have many advantages such as the mayors’ ability to run the local authority effectively, establish a coherent policy and scale of priorities and supervise a local bureaucracy, which seeks to work in cooperation with the executive, unlike the state of affairs in the central government. Another benefit is the total elimination of factional conspiracies to unseat an elected mayor, as well as the mayors’ independencefrom party machinations.

Similarly, we found also that relations of trust between the elected authoritiesand the general public were much better in these authorities than between the Knesset and government on the one hand, and the general public, on the other.

Every democracy is a constant compromise between representation and effectiveness. In 1975, the local government reform tilted the balance towards more effectiveness by giving more authority – or, as some would have it, too much authority – to mayors. On the other hand elections to the Knesset are tilted towards maximum representation, spurning the subject of effectiveness.

The time has come to strike a new balance between representation and effectiveness in Israel’s electoral system.

- For the full article in Hebrew click here pdf


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