On July 20 2016, the Knesset passed the final approval of “The Expulsion Law” according to which, a serving Member of the Knesset may be removed from his position if three quarters of the Knesset Committee members determine that he has incited to racism or expressed support for an armed struggle against the State of Israel.[1] This law has aroused protests among many members of the Opposition and certain organizations such as Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) that present themselves as being concerned for the rights of Israel’s minorities. According to them, the law constitutes a mortal blow to the values of democracy. They further claim that its sole purpose is to expel Arab Knesset members.
In order to attempt and resolve the issue, we have chosen to study the state of affairs in countries possessing characteristics and regimes similar to those of Israel i.e., democratic nation states. Accordingly, the study presented below examined limitations imposed on political parties and on members of parliament in twelve democratic states, members of the OECD. The study surveyed the existence and actual implementation of legal preventative measures that restrict the foundation or registration of political parties seeking to participate in elections, and also retroactive steps including disassembly or disqualification of a party after its foundation, and suspension or expulsion of a serving member of parliament.

This publication constitutes a complementary study to two relevant studies on the subject published by the Knesset Research and Information Center (hereinafter: RIC) that were conducted in 2006 and 2016 and that, among others, is based on their findings.
This study reveals a clear picture:

Not a single country granted its citizens the full and unrestricted right to vote and be elected.

  • Six of the twelve countries surveyed impose limitations on the registration of political parties.
  • Nine of the twelve countries surveyed enable the suspension or legal disqualification of a political party.

A combination of the findings of our study with those of the RIC from 2006 and 2016 reveals that:

  • Fifteen of the twenty-eight countries surveyed impose limitations on the activity of political parties.
  • Fifteen of the twenty-eight countries surveyed enable the suspension or legal disqualification of a political party.
  • Eight of the twenty-four countries surveyed implement expulsion or suspension of a member of parliament for different behavioral offences, aside from any legal proceedings that may be initiated.

A summary conclusion of the three studies reveals the existence of substantial limitations on political activity (mainly of political parties), of differing levels of severity, while making use of a range of legal and constitutional procedures. A comparative view of the existing arrangements in the different countries suggests that the “Expulsion Law” represents a unique version in relation to parallel laws around the world. Nevertheless, when considering the Supreme Court’s practical disregard for the existing legislation, and given the restrictive and stringent circumstances regarding its activation, it serves as a legitimate (and some would say, even necessary) defense mechanism for creating a fitting balance between freedom of expression and stability of the democratic regime.

[1] Jonathan Lis, After Stormy Debate Knesset Approves Law Allowing Ouster of Lawmakers, Ha’aretz, July 20, 2016. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.731962

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