Panel okays 12.5% increase in funds for party election campaigns

A key committee on Wednesday approved increasing public funding for political parties’ election campaigns by 12.5 percent.

The Public Committee on Party Financing, an oversight panel, allowed a rise from NIS 1.4 million to NIS 1.6 million ($462,291) per funding unit.

In a statement, the committee, chaired by retired judge Ayala Procaccia, said that after hearing arguments for and against the extra funding and assessments from the Knesset research department, “and in light of the rise in the cost of campaigns and the recurring elections the committee decided that the funding unit will go up.”

Funding units are awarded to each existing Knesset party according to the number of MKs they have.

The addition will cost public coffers another NIS 20 million, bringing the total cost of party funding to around NIS 200 million ($58 million) in the coming election.

The funding issue, which ordinarily would have been included as part of the vote to disband the Knesset, became entangled in the last-minute haggling between coalition and opposition parties and so passed to the committee for approval instead. A vote to disband the Knesset, triggering new elections, had been scheduled for Wednesday night but was delayed by political clashes and rescheduled for Thursday.

The Likud party, which had spearheaded the drive for more campaign funding, had sought an increase of funding units to NIS 1.8 million, Channel 13 news reported. A figure of NIS 1.66 million had been agreed for by other parties.

Both Labor and Yisrael Beytenu came out against the funding increase and instructed their members to vote against it if it made it to the plenum, according to party sources.

The funding increase bid was pushed by the Likud party, which in the past has overspent its elections funds. In Israel, campaigns are primarily financed by public monies, and private donations are capped.

Parties’ campaigns are financed through “funding units” based upon the average of the number of seats won in the last election and the number of seats ultimately won in the new round (with some additional calculations coming into play).

If the Knesset dissolves elections are expected on October 25 or November 1; the opposition and coalition are still negotiating the date. It will be the fifth election Israel has held within four years amid a period of political instability.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will automatically replace Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as premier until a new government is formed following the vote, with Bennett shifting to alternate prime minister.

Elections are projected to cost NIS 2.4 billion, according to Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. This sum includes both direct costs and indirect economic losses caused by Israel’s policy of declaring election day a national holiday.

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