Israel has a parliamentary system based on nation-wide proportional representation. This means that voters elect nationally-registered political factions—not local candidates.
Each faction receives representation in the 120-seat Knesset (parliament) proportional to how many votes it gets. Factions must meet a threshold of at least 3.25 percent of the vote to qualify for seats in the Knesset. This relatively low threshold allows small parties to have disproportionate influence in the political system, since large parties are reliant on small party support to form governing coalitions. Factions may determine their own list of candidates, including by internal election or appointment.
Knesset elections must be held once every four years, though many coalitions do not survive a full term. In moments of political instability or stalemate, a majority of the Knesset may vote to dissolve the body and call early elections to be held 90-150 days later.
Israeli voter turnout is traditionally very high—between 60 and 80 percent.
After an election, Israel’s president consults with faction leaders and selects the Knesset member most likely to form a viable coalition government of 61 or more seats. This member is often, but not required to be, the leader of the faction that has won the most seats. The selected member then has 42 days to negotiate with other factions and form a coalition, which is presented to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If they succeed, that member becomes the next prime minister.
The last Israeli general election was held on March 15, 2015, and resulted in another term as prime minister for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has no term limits for prime ministers. On December 24th, 2018, new elections were called for April 9, 2019 and the current Knesset was dissolved. Political leaders and parties are currently working to build their candidate lists and, in some cases, to create alliances to run together under the same electoral slate. Electoral lists must be finalized by February 20.