Likud MK files, quickly withdraws bill to politicize Central Elections Committee

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A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party filed a bill on Sunday aimed at politically taking over the Central Election Committee, but quickly withdrew it after being hit by swift and strong backlash.

The bill, submitted by MK Eliyahu Revivo, would determine that the Knesset speaker and the committee appoint the chairman of the committee — a current Supreme Court judge appointed by the president of the high court — and not be a sitting or former judge.

The committee oversees the entire process of elections in Israel, ensuring that they are conducted in an orderly, fair and legal manner. It approves the lists of candidates, prepares all the voting booths and stations and their equipment and staff, ensures that every citizen has a way to vote, tallies the votes and announces the results.

Most of the committee members are political members, representing the factions of the outgoing Knesset.

Explaining his bill, Revivo wrote that “the current situation is a conflict of interest in which a Supreme Court judge chairs it and is the de facto colleague of the High Court judges who deal with petitions against committee decisions.”

Revivo claimed that its proposal would strengthen democracy.

But the bill drew immediate fire from critics who said that appointing a political appointee to chair the panel, instead of a judge, would politicize the election process and seriously undermine the democratic process.

Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo attends a special committee meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, a fierce critic of the government’s plan to reform the justice system, said: “Likud is now trying to take over the Central Election Committee. Why beat around the bush? They should announce that there will be no elections in Israel from now on if they don’t win it, and this will succeed.”

The criticism even came from the Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which is in charge of the judicial reform plan.

“In my eyes, there is no need to touch the composition of the Central Electoral Committee, this is counter-productive,” said Rothman.

Revivo finally managed to withdraw his bill and freeze it an hour after it was announced, saying that he was doing it at the request of coalition shepherd Ofir Katz, also from Likud.

He said he believed in the bill but “as a team player within the Likud faction and to prevent conspiracy theories from the opposition, I decided to withdraw the law.”

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