Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Election Selection

And so I am back from my trip to London, with a shiny new sister-in-law!

The wedding was lovely - very nicely done, fun to be involved in and my first time as a bridesmaid.

Four days was the perfect amount of time, methinks, to spend back in the Mother Country. The weather held out nicely, I squeezed in a few friends and had some time (not as much as I'd have liked, but 'some' is better than nothing at all) with my doggies, but unfortunately did not manage to hit up Primark.

And, with the wedding now out the way (until my sister's in August, BH) I turn my thoughts to the elections, Israeli and British. Because that's an apparent benefit of being a dual national.

Yes - once again, Israel is going to the polls. Today. Eek. I'm a newbie (yes, still, after 9 months) and it's a totally different kettle of fish to how we do it back in Blighty.

It seemed inevitable, really - a Middle Eastern nation, with security issues on all sides, full of hot-blooded natives, ever-increasing immigration (from 1st world and 3rd world countries alike) and using a highly contested electoral system. It's no surprise that agreements are unreachable and governments fall quickly. In fact, I'm surprised there aren't elections here every year. Having said that, during the last general election in Britain (which I also spent here in Israel), voters managed to break the country, bringing back the bad old days of coalition governments while ushering in the age of the ConDems.

Before we get into all that, let's take a second to compare these electoral voting systems.

Britain's First Past the Post (FPP) states that whichever party wins the most votes nationwide gets to rule. No fuss, Brit-style. Israel's Proportional Representation states that parties winning a certain amount of votes will get a certain amount of seats.

Now, before you say anything - yes, they are both shit. As my man Winny C once said,
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” And it's true. 
Back when I was a young, green (so green. so many shades of green is so many ways) A level Politics students (*cough* A grade), this was something all of us kids, who'd never voted in our lives, were still at school and who had really no idea what we were on about, discussed endlessly. 
While most of what we said was a load of utter pretentious crap (and it really was) I do recall a few points of wisdom which have stuck by me throughout my aliya, and especially now that I'll be voting in both countries. 
First Past the Post can give rise to 'dictatorial' styles of government. What they say goes, whether you like it or not, as long as they have a nice majority in the government and can push legislation through. It's a more stable, British sort of government, with little fuss and no awkward silences.
Proportional Representation, in all its glorious forms, is both a blessing and curse. Yes, minority parties get to have their say and get into government, but think about the sort of parties which could get in. In Israel, it means the extremes of left, right and meshuganas all over. It's a very unstable form of government, hence the frequently recurring elections. 
But that's what makes the Israeli electorate such an involved one, with a high voter turnout. And we do get a day off. So that's nice. 
But there is one thing that I still can't really get my head around, as born and bred Brit - back in my old country, you do not, under any circumstances - when meeting new people, at work, in polite society etc -  talk about who you're voting for or your political beliefs, unless you want to start a quiet but heated discussion and cause widespread offence.  
Really. In England, even when there are only actually 2,.5 parties (I count the 'Dems as .5, as I'm still convinced that Cleggover is a crappy half-baked clone of Cameron), discussing political views is considered a terrible, highly personal piece of information which you should not disclose, on a par with mentions of sex or religion. Stick to the weather, and we're all fine. Noone can disagree about how much rain there is, can they (apart from that one time when we all disagreed about the amounts of rain, BUT WE AGREED TO NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN)? 
Israeli politics is pretty confusing. Here, in the Holy Land, practical every day stuff  which is the main campaigning points for voters back in Blighty - taxes, petrol prices, employment - ain't the frontrunning issues.
Here, its about real, slightly more pressing things which could affect whether or not there's another war soon, if we're going to piss off the international community yet again, and if so by how much. Will people have to leave their homes if they live outside of the '67 borders, for example? It's all one massive mindf**k, and with the added Proportional Representation balagan, there is much less likelihood of a wasted vote. 
The candidates are just as confusing. There are so many names and histories floating about - this one used to be this minister; that one was a war hero; that one did....you get the picture. 
It is much easier to work out who you don't want to vote for, and even that's saying something. Your average Israeli will outright ask you who you're thinking of voting for, shout you down for making a silly choice and then tell you about who they're voting for and why. 

Really. There have been very few things that have been difficult to adjust to since I moved here, but this is probably the biggest. Back in England, I didn't care who knew of my political views, partly because I advertised them and partly because it didn't really mean very much. 

Back in the old, pre-aliya days, I was a true blue Conservative. Hell, I even once represented them and dressed up for the  school mock-election as Maggie Thatcher (I won 2nd place. I lost out only to the Monster Raving Loony Party, because they bribed the electorate of impressionable year 7s with chocolate. I hold no grudges - it was a pretty good tactic). Dammit, I once appeared on ITV and Channel 4 news meeting then-Tory leader Michael Howard. I was on first name, letter-writing terms with my MP and was in touch with him until recently, thanking him for his support for Israel during last summer's war. 

Here though...where my vote doesn't just rely on 'what's my tax situation going to be?' and 'who's more friendly towards Israel?' it's actually very tricky. They all have different views of the settlements. On the two state solution. On the Jewish Home bill.

Extremes of any sort are bad, in my books - both the right wing (breeding fascism, religious nutcases) and the left (breeding communism, self-hating apologists). I like the centre. 

Which, you'd think, would lead me to a nice, easy decision. 


My two preferences, Yesh Atid ('There's a Future') and Kulanu ('All of us') are the main centrist parties, discounting Bibi's Likud. I actually like Bibi - he's a fantastic speaker and not bad on the eyes, but he's not been strong enough on several things. That leaves me with the above. 

A pictorial representation of this dilemma

The bloke leading Yesh Atid - Yair Lapid - is also rather nice looking (it is a pleasant change to have a good looking party leader - that's something we don't get back in England) and speaks very well. He's a former journalist and his party comprises olim from all over the place. I like that. 

However, as the bf pointed out, he was a jobnik in the army - someone who's not really much to write home about. I countered by saying he has some great ideas for the country - there's a future, innit - to which he replied, 'what, is he going to interview Hamas to death?'. Touche. 

Moshe Kachlon, of Kulanu, on the other hand, is hot stuff. Also good looking (yeah, I said it), he was the bloke who broke the phone monopolies in Israel, making it a more competitive market. He's promised to do the same for other areas of society, but - according to my work wife, this is unlikely happen as he is besties with these naughty societal overlords. 

So I got into the booth earlier today. I saw all of the parties' acronyms (the way voting actually happens here is strange - your ID number is registered and you receive an envelope. You choose the acronym of the party you're voting for, seal it into your envelope and drop it into the ballot box. Interesting) and felt overwhelmed. Immediately eliminating the extremes of both left and right, I was left with the above choices. 

I cast that vote. I cast it real good. 

Eventually, I went with Yesh Atid. Because if there's one thing Israelis - native sabras, we're talking - will never understand, it's life outside Israel - being raised there and all that. 

It's all nice and well making policies for and about Israel left, right and centre, but without considering (even in the slightest, teensiest way) the impact it could potentially have on world Jewry? Or taking into account what olim here need and feel? Well that's something that has been pissing me off for years, pre and post-aliya. 

So I voted for the party who have unofficially tagged themselves as the party for Olim. I feel pretty damn proud of myself too for having exercised my democratic rights. 

Newbie voting
Oh and the British election? I'm voting Tory. Because old habits die hard, and Thatcher4LYF. 

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