Dropping the 5% threshold

NRT proposes dropping the 5% threshold for parties to gain representation in Parliament.

I think this would be a very bad thing to do, for two reasons.

The first is that it will greatly encourage extremism in politics. The large parties will generally avoid extremist policies as they can not afford to alienate too large a segment of the population. A small party doesn’t mind if the percentage of the population who detests them goes from 30% to 90%, if it puts their support up from say 1% to 3%. They have absolutely nothing to lose from going as extreme as possible, if it means they get a seat in Parliament they would otherwise not get. The 5% threshold acts as a counter to encouraging extremism.

The second reason is that the lack of a threshold would not only encourage extremism, but greatly reward it. It will become less and less likely that two or even three parties can form a Government, and the small 1% parties will hold the balance of power. They will gain influence well beyond their share of the vote and even get to decide who will be in Government.

So getting rid of the threshold will both encourage and reward extremism on both the right and left. And this has real effects. Certain middle east peace initiatives never happened because the extreme religious parties in the Knesset held the balance of power.

Israel, is a country around our size, with also 120 MPs. 24 of the 120 seats are held by parties that get under 5% of the vote.

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