New Delhi: Israel held its fourth general election in two years Tuesday but exit polls have projected yet another stalemate in the country. In episode 710 of ‘Cut the Clutter’ Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explained what led to the snap elections and how the political stalemate may be resolved.
He also discussed Bihar’s new police law and why it rocked the state assembly.
Israel has a unique system of electing its national parliament or what is called in Hebrew, the Knesset. The Knesset has 120 MPs, so the majority is 61. But the key is that those 61 should agree with each other.
Gupta explained this by giving the example how in April 2020 Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz opted to break with half of his Blue and White party and joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a new government. They arrived at a deal according to which Netanyahu would be the PM first for 18 months and Gantz would take over in November 2021.
However, it appears that Netanyahu was not willing to give up power. Therefore, Gantz and Netanyahu fought over many official appointments and issues like the budget, said Gupta.
Israel has carried out the most successful vaccination programme in the world, covering 120 per cent of its population, which means every citizen has been vaccinated and some have got their second dose as well. Netanyahu was hoping this success would help him break the deadlock this time and win the election. However, that does not look like a possibility now, added Gupta.
According to the exit polls, Netanyahu will get 59-60 seats. His coalition could win a majority with the help of an independent but while he may get close to 60, he may not get exactly 61 seats.
To be in the Knesset, it is essential for a party to get 3.5 per cent of the national vote. If a party gets 3.5 per cent of the national vote, it is entitled to some seats in the national parliament, explained Gupta. This makes it virtually impossible for one political party to win a majority in Israel. Also, 20 per cent of Israel’s population is Arab and they have parties of their own. So they also have seats allocated to them in Parliament. Therefore, the situation is a mess.
Benny Gantz did well during the last election, however, this time he is doing very badly, Gupta noted. “What is the reason he is now facing such a pushback from his own voters? …last time, he conducted his campaign against Netanyahu, but (then) chose to join Netanyahu in this coalition so he’s being punished for it,” Gupta said.
One of Netanyahu’s challengers is Naftali Bennett, a former commando from the Israeli Special Forces, who has his own party which can get six to seven seats. Another challenger is Yair Lapid, a former TV broadcaster who set up his own party. Netanyahu is essentially challenged by three other right wing party candidates, said Gupta.
In the event of a deadlock, the President calls the leader of a party and gives them four weeks to find a majority. If that leader fails, the President gives others the same opportunity and if even that does not work, the Knesset is dissolved and fresh elections are held.
Gupta then turned to Bihar. What happened in the Bihar assembly Tuesday was national shame, Gupta said, referring to the incident when MLAs were thrashed. A woman MLA was dragged out. “It is shocking that it happened under Nitish Kumar’s government who has come to be known as a decent politician over the years,” Gupta said.
This happened over a new law which was passed in the assembly Tuesday called the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill 2021, which will give the armed police sweeping powers of arrest, seizure, and search without needing any warrants and without clearance from any magistrates, which is a very bad idea, Gupta said.
“If a state thinks that it has the power to give such powers to the police, this is a step towards the balkanisation of India,” Gupta noted. No court can seek accountability from the police unless there is a clearance from the government. “Nitish Kumar can create his own Bihar CISF, but he should first create some industries to protect,” Gupta concluded.
Watch the full episode here: