pr 08-06-04

19 November 2009

New Law Deprives 25,000 Arab Bedouin Citizens of Israel of Right to Vote in Local Elections in the Naqab (Negev)
  • * New law cancels upcoming elections and maintains government-appointed council

    * Law violates the rights of the Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel to equality and dignity.

    * Adalah sent an urgent letter to the Interior Minister demanding that new law be withdrawn and elections held

On 16 November 2009, the Israeli Knesset voted to pass a special amendment to the Regional Authorities' Law (Date of General Elections)–1994, which prevents the holding of elections in the Abu Basma Regional Council in the Naqab (Negev). The new law will maintain the government-appointed council, which is comprised of a majority of Israeli Jewish members and chaired by a person close to the orthodox right-wing "Shas" party to which the Interior Minister, who initiated the amendment of the law, belongs. Under the new law, the current council would remain in place for an indefinite period of time.

The new law gives the Interior Minister absolute power to declare the postponement of the first election of a Regional Council after its establishment. No period of time for delay is specified in the law. Prior to the new amendment, the law stipulated that elections must be held within four years.

Elections were scheduled to be held for the Abu Basma Regional Council in December 2009. The Abu Basma Regional Council, which is located in Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva), includes 10 Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab (Negev) that were officially recognized by the government six years ago. It is also responsible for providing or coordinating certain services for residents of the unrecognized villages. Approximately 25,000 people fall within its jurisdiction.

In this context, prior to the passage of the law, Adalah Attorney Ala' Mahajneh sent an urgent letter on 9 November 2009 to the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, and Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, demanding that they reject the proposed amendment and remove it from the Knesset's voting agenda. The letter also demanded the holding of elections for chairperson and council membership of the Abu Basma Regional Council immediately as required by law.

Adalah argued in the letter that: "The proposed amendment violates the constitutional rights of the Council's residents to run for and be elected to the council. These rights are the cornerstone of any democratic system." Adalah is planning to petition the Supreme Court of Israel against this new law.






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