Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Representation of Population Sectors


Michal Korach

from: City in Numbers

In the local councils of Israel the number of city council members is decided by the size of the population represented. Since 1969 the Jerusalem city council has had 31 members. But in August 2008 Minister of the Interior Meir Sheetrit issued a directive to limit the number of city council members. According to the Minister, the directive is meant to "significantly improve the ability of the heads of local councils to manage their councils and to form coalitions without incurring high costs; to avert divisions, the creation of many small parties, and the formation of oppositionary councils." A number of political parties and council members presented appeals to the High Court of Justice requesting to cancel the directive. They claimed, among other things, that the directive was issued "on the spur of the moment, without prior discussion or warning" and at a time when elections were already under way, when candidates had already taken upon themselves financial responsibilities based on the previously existing system. The appeals were accepted, and the new directive will not be effect in the upcoming elections.
An examination of the composition of the current city council of Jerusalem shows that some groups are over-represented and some are under-represented.
The Ultra-Orthodox population of Jerusalem comprises, according to estimates, 20% of the city population, or 30% of the Jewish population. In the City Council there are currently 14 representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox population, (45% of the council members). Thus there is over-representation of the Ultra-Orthodox population in the council, relative to its percentage of the population as a whole. This is due to the high percentage of voter participation in this sector.
The Arab population, comprising 34% of the city population, has no representative whatsoever in the city council. This is because most of the Arab population refrains from voting in the municipal elections, which they view as recognition of Israeli control over the city. As a result, the Arab voice is not heard in the council, and in effect there is no one who sees to their interests.
Another sector that is under-represented on the city council is women. Women constitute 50% of the city population, but there are only 5 women on the city council – 16% of the city council members. For comparison, 35% of the city council members of Tel Aviv are women, 27% in Maale Adumim and 23% in Mevasseret Zion. In Givat Zeev and Beitar Illit there is not a single female council member.
Percentage of Women in Local Councils
Source: The Central Elections Committee, the Ministry of the Interior.

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