Most research on electoral systems deals with the effects of institutions on political representation. However, political parties design the electoral systems, and thereby navigate between self-interest and multiple, often nonreconcilable normative ideals. This chapter reviews the growing literature on the choice of electoral systems from different perspectives. Structural theories explain that the choice of electoral systems is closely linked to the history of suffrage extensions, cultural heterogeneity and the organization of the economy. Agency-based theories highlight how parliamentary majorities strategically pass electoral reforms in order to consolidate their power in the long run—for instance, in order to avoid future losses in elections. However, often lawmakers fail to predict their electoral fortunes and therefore pass reforms that turn out not to be in their favor, or they even contribute to undermining their own reforms later with strategic maneuvers. Finally, the chapter analyzes the choice of electoral system in the context of transitions toward democracies and in former colonies.
As in other parliamentary democracies, the Israeli government is dependent on the confidence of parliament. Israel is a country with a diverse society, divided by multidimensional political issues and using a proportional representation electoral system. It is therefore not surprising to find a multiparty system with a highly fragmented parliament. This setting produces the central institutional feature of its executive branch: coalition politics. This chapter outlines the process of cabinet formation and the types of coalitions formed, presents an overview of the position of the prime minister, describes the work and structure of cabinet ministers and ministries, explains why governments seldom complete a full term, and assesses claims about both instability and nongovernability in Israel.
Menachem Hofnung and Mohammed S. Wattad
The contemporary perception of Israel’s judiciary as an independent branch does not coincide with Israel’s first government’s perception after establishing the first Supreme Court. To a great extent the executive branch deemed the court its long arm. Until the mid-1950s judges were appointed by the government, and questions of conflicts of interest and political affiliation—in the wide sense of the term—were not compelling. However, since the 1990s the court’s power of judicial review and the legitimacy of its decisions have become issues of heated public debate. Consequently the process of appointing justices to the court has become subject to very strict public and political scrutiny. This chapter asks whether the Israeli judiciary truly constitutes a third independent branch of government. This is relevant considering the continuous attempts to change the existing balance of power, aiming to limit the court’s capacity to apply universal judicial doctrines and legal standards to executive and legislative decisions.