Tzipi Livni
Tzipi Livni Israel news photo: Flash 90

Is HaTnua less democratic than Balad and Shas? According to a new survey published just prior to the elections, which revealed interesting insights into the level of democracy in Israeli parties, the answer would be yes.  

A team led by Professor Gideon Rahat of the Israel Democracy Institute, with the participation of researchers Asaf Shapiro and Michael Filipov, developed a unique "internal party democracy index " to assess the level of internal democracy in political parties in Israel.

The team developed a broad questionnaire, reflecting the party's adherence to major concepts pertaining to democracy. 

Key questions included the openness of the decision-making process in the party, the extent to which the party's candidate list reflects the electorate, the level of competition between candidates for key positions in the party, how the decisions of the leadership affect the party as a whole and the party's level of transparency. 

Each party was awarded between 0 and 100 points based on how their party fit into these key aspects of democracy, with zero being a total absence of democracy and 100 being the ultimate presence of democracy. 

The findings indicate that in Israel there is a huge gap between the parties regarding their adherence to democratic values. The most democratic parties were Labor with 86 points, Likud with 75, Meretz with 74, Jewish Home with 64 and Balad with 61. The least democratic parties were HaTnua and Am Shalem with 8 each, and Democratic Arab Party, Degel HaTorah and Agudath Yisrael with 2 each. 

The findings reveal a number of interesting conceptions about democracy in political parties. 

According to the study, there is no link between political affiliation - right, center-left etc - and its level of internal democracy. Parties within the same blocks can vary greatly on the internal democracy scale, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox parties who all scored low on the scale.  Also, there is no link between party size and level of democracy - Likud and Labor are two big parties that scored within the same range as smaller parties such as Balad and Jewish Home. 

Another interesting point is that it seems that the Israeli public unknowingly picked up on these findings before any such scale was even conceived. The three parties slated to win the most seats in the next Knesset, according to current election polls, are also among the top four parties that scored best in the study. 

New parties tend to forsake democratic policies for the sake of promoting a high profile chairman, as shown by survey findings which placed Yesh Atid, HaTnua and Am Shalem low on the scale. 

Professor Gideon Rahat added that "despite the difficulties and even failures we've discovered in the democratic parties, we must encourage the parties to act in a democratic manner and help them to do so in as clean a way as possible."