Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Day after the Kadima Primaries

People have been wrongly predicting the downfall of Ehud Olmert for two years now. Has his reign finally come to an end?

If exit polls for the Kadima primaries prove accurate, Tsipi Livni will be elected leader of Olmert's Kadima Party tomorrow. Prime Minister Olmert has previously announced that he would tender his resignation immediately following the results of the Kadima primaries. But there is a chance that we will be seeing Olmert on the throne for quite a bit longer. Both the legal (by which I mean the Basic Laws, not the possible indictment of Olmert by the Attorney-General) and political situations are complicated. 

According to Israel's Basic Laws on the Government 30 (c) (Hebrew, English), 
A Prime Minister who has resigned shall continue to carry out his functions pending the constitution of the new Government. If the Prime Minister has died, or is permanently incapacitated, from carrying out his duties, or if his tenure was ended because of an offense, the Government shall designate another of the Ministers who is a member of the Knesset and of the Prime Minister's faction to be Interim Prime Minister pending the constitution of the new Government.
Thus, when Olmert resigns, he can continue to run the country as head of an interim government until new elections are called. 

The Jerusalem Post claims that
Should Olmert resign after the primary, the cabinet also resigns and the government becomes a transitional government, with Olmert at its head, that remains in power until a new government is formed. This could take least a few weeks, but might only happen after a general election, probably in the spring.

By law, no minister or party may leave a transitional government. Thus, even if he is subsequently indicted, Olmert would be locked in as head of the transitional government, whether he - or anyone else - likes it or not.
I am not sure on which article of the Basic Law on the Government this interpretation is based, but if true, we may be seeing a lot more of Olmert.

Meanwhile, the political situation is dynamic, with the Labor Party threatening to leave the government, Shas trying to extract concessions in return for staying, and the opposition, led by the Likud, renewing calls for elections. 

Elections would not be held until the spring, at which point many things can change dramatically. In the next few days, we should see whether Olmert decides to stay on as interim Prime Minister or whether he will suspend himself from his post and let her take the reigns until elections are called.