On December 10, 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak submitted his letter of resignation to President Katsav. According to the Basic Law: The Government, which took effect in 1996:
A prime minister elected in special elections will remain in office for the period of service of the Knesset serving at that time. (The next Knesset elections are scheduled for May 2003.)
Update: On January 1, 2001, the Knesset voted 57-41 in favor of a motion to apply continuity to the bill to amend the law on the direct election of prime minister from the same point the previous Knesset left off.
On March 7, 2001, the Knesset voted to change the system of direct prime-ministerial elections and restore the one-vote parliamentary system of government that operated until 1996, approving a reformed version of the original Basic Law: The Government.
Eligibility requirements for Prime Minister
Since the change of the electoral system in 1996, Israel's prime minister is elected by a separate, direct ballot. The February 2001 election will be the first time that a separate special election will be held for prime minister, with the composition of the Knesset remaining unchanged.
The candidate for prime minister must be a citizen at least 30 years of age and may be nominated by a party, or parties, with at least 10 seats in the Knesset. According the amendment to the Basic Law: The Government passed on December 19, 2000, both Knesset Members and non-MKs may stand for a special election. Names of candidates for prime minister must be filed by midnight of December 21, 2000.
If the outgoing prime minister has served for seven consecutive years, he/she may not stand for re-election.
Meet the candidates
Two candidates will run for the office of Prime Minister as heads of their respective parties.
Ehud Barak, incumbent Prime Minister (Labor)
Ariel Sharon, MK (Likud)
The election laws regarding campaigning prohibit campaign advertising from appearing on buses and lighted billboards. In addition, the size of advertisements in the printed media is limited, and the use of entertainment events or gifts to promote candidates is also prohibited. Special campaign advertisements are broadcast during the 21 days prior to elections. Each candidate will be given 120 minutes on the radio and an equal time on television.
Candidates, during their public campaigns, will not be allowed to make use of persons who were killed or injured in security related activities, without the explicit permission of the person or, in case of death, their family.
The Israel Defense Forces will not be used as part of an election campaign in a way which suggests that the army favors any particular candidate.
Limitations will be imposed on the use of children under the age of 15 years in election campaigning. Documentary materials will not be similarly restricted.
On December 31, the parties signed an agreement on holding clean elections. The agreement calls on all parties not to violate any laws during the election campaign, whether laws governing the election, party financing, or any other laws. The representatives of the candidates commit their factions to preserve the public calm and avoid any form of violence, physical and verbal, or damage to property, the environment and public cleanliness.
The Knesset allocated NIS 40.5 million in state campaign financing for each candidate for prime minister. Allowable individual contributions to the election campaign were increased from NIS 1,700 to NIS 10,000, totaling not more than NIS 7.5m per candidate.
Parties without prime ministerial candidates are entitled to NIS 338,000 per MK to pay for campaigning in support of a candidate.
Any candidate who earns less than 8 percent of the vote will have to pay back all the funds, and those receiving up to 15 percent will have to pay back half.
All citizens aged 18 or older on election day are eligible to vote. The voter registry will be updated accordingly.
A total of 4,094,000 Israelis will be eligible to vote in the February 6 elections, an increase of about 5% (188,000) over the total number of eligible voters in the 1999 elections. (An additional 410,000 Israelis abroad will not be able to vote.) Arab voters constitute 12.3% of the eligible voters. Immigrants since 1990 constitute 18.3% (771,000 voters).
Election day is a holiday in order to enable all to participate.
Voting will take place at 7,800 polling stations. Soldiers and policemen on active duty vote in special polling stations in their units. Special arrangements have also been made for prison inmates to vote, as well as for those confined to hospital. Women living in shelters for abused women will, for their own protection, be allowed to vote in special ballots away from their hometowns.
Israeli law does not provide for absentee ballots, and voting takes place only on Israeli soil. The sole exceptions are official Israeli envoys serving in missions abroad, and members of the Israeli merchant marine.
Voting will take place on January 25, 2001 at 99 Israeli diplomatic missions around the world with more than 1,800 eligible voters. The Israeli mission in New York is the largest, with more than 300 eligible voters. The mission in Oman is the smallest, with only three eligible voters.