Silman and ‘splitters gonna split’ 


Presidentialism has one advantage over parliamentarism: If a member of a president’s party opposes them, the agenda will be blocked but the government will not collapse and cabinet level positions will remain in place. This is not the case for parliamentary democracies, like those of Israel and Pakistan.  

In Israel, Idit Silman, a member of Prime Minister Bennett’s Yamina party, is toppling the government over chametz regulations. (Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, disagrees.) In Pakistan, the opposition has filed for a vote of no confidence. In both states, the opposition is unified only as an opposition.  

There are several theories about why the Israeli coalition collapsed this week. Firstly, Silman’s official reason for defecting as reported by Haaretz in Forward is the allowance of chametz, or foods containing leavening agents —  religiously prohibited during the holiday of Passover — in hospitals. Haaretz rejects this explanation due to an Israeli Supreme Court ruling placing Silman’s stance in opposition to Israeli law. Haaretz thus promotes a second explanation: Silman wanted to defect for other, more fundamental reasons. 

This phenomenon demonstrates what I will call the “splitters gonna split” theory. This theory posits that people make decisions by taking action first and providing rationale later. This is often the reason behind a split, a vulnerability of coalition governments. 

Haaretz must also answer a second question: Why did Silman choose to defect now? Its answer: Between the Pegasus revelations, protests of the Abraham Accords meeting in the Negev and the recent terrorist attacks and Bennett’s response, the Bennett government looks vulnerable. Prime Minister Bennett probably knows this, but vigilance is going to make his Arab coalition partners concerned for the welfare of their constituents. On Haaretz’s account, defection reduces the risk of losing Silman’s seat and the privileges of being in the ruling government rather than the opposition. 

Secondly, Bennett’s government should, on all accounts, have already collapsed. But, the government agreed to avoid polemical topics that split the coalition. This insulated the Bennett coalition from the internal contradictions of a coalition of right wingers, Meretz and Arab Israeli Parties. The Arab parties may be frustrated with how Bennett has handled the recent terrorist attacks, complaints about evictions, Evyatar and the Israel Defense Forces. In fact, opposition member Odeh recently called for Arabs to desert the IDF. However, such a government only lasts until someone decides the detente is not worth it. Preserving that detente enabled the government to survive, but coalitions based on detente are too fragile for stability and trust in government. 

Parliamentary elections are a fun game to play, but politicians should not play them, sacrificing substantive issues for spectacles and speculation. While I like speculating about electoral coalitions on 270toWin, my what-ifs never affect who will actually win the presidency—Jacob Ningen’s speculative manipulations have no consequences, but those of a minister of parliament do.  

Government should be predictable and stable. If there is no confidence that the government’s statement of today will hold tomorrow, the promises become worthless. Even the ability to play games becomes uncertain for politicians. Elections need surety or there is no reason to play. This is Kant’s argument against lying and it holds equally well for parliamentarians. Government becomes filled with lies and the trust evaporates. The Legalist nightmare of sinecures and squabbling is realized. 

Such a state is undesirable for it would result in chaos and a lack of certainty. Luckily for Israel, its perpetual elections are merely a reshuffling of the same hand. Presidentialism avoids so many elections and ensures a stability that parliaments cannot ensure. 

Presidentialism also would prevent the crisis in Pakistan. In this state, parliament filed for a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. His allies then attempted to preempt the vote with early elections. That is the true villain I have been attacking: early elections. These are impossible in a presidential system, thus providing the regularity needed for a government to survive. Furthermore, it would take Alberto Fujimori or Balmacedist levels of discontent for the legislature and head of state in presidential systems to disown each other and upset stability. Thus, presidential regimes are more stable and predictable than parliamentary regimes.  

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