Censure of Joseph Cohen

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The censure of Joseph Cohen describes an official investigation into the government's response to the Coronavirus during the premiership of Liberal Union leader Joseph Cohen. After three days of discussion, the Akkan Parliament, led by a Conservative minority government voted - by a margin of twenty-three to eleven (with three abstentions) - to censure Cohen, alongside a number of other Liberal Union ministers from his premiership.

A point of criticism was the lack of scrutiny the Labor Zionist Party faced during the process. The Labor Party had served in coalition government with Cohen, and at the time supported the government's handling of the Coronavirus; despite this, very little time was spent interrogating Labor MPs - the revelation that they had privately threatened to leave the coalition seemed to appease most of those supporting censure, perhaps because at the time the LZP was in coalition government with the Conservative Party who had spearheaded the censure efforts. This was not lost on the Liberal Union, who accused the entire process of being a hit piece intended to bolster the government's popularity.

Proposed Censuring

During the October 2020 election, leading voices in the Conservative Party suggested potentially censuring Cohen, and a number of other important figures in the Liberal Union government, for inaction on the Coronavirus. In the February 2020 election, the Liberals had ran on a refusal to endorse a national lockdown, considering it an infringement of civil liberties. Even after cases began to soar in Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's announcement of a lockdown, the Liberal Union refused to endorse the lockdown, instead suggesting that Akkans should abide by it only out of respect for the macronational authorities.

By late April, the People's Democratic Union announced they would leave their confidence and supply arrangement with the Liberal Union if they did not acquiesce to calls to endorse a national lockdown. Several days later, Cohen held a vote in the Parliament to endorse a lockdown, though voted against the proposal.

Though a lockdown was ultimately endorsed, the Liberal Union lifted its endorsement just a month later; when Netanyahu announced a second lockdown in September, Cohen once again refused to endorse it, this time causing open opposition from within his own party, leading to the dissolution of Parliament and the October 2020 election.

The election led to a minority government led by the Conservatives, including the Labor Zionist Party and the Movement for the Homeland, who announced an intention to hold a committee on censuring Cohen and his government, though provided no precise date.

On November 10th, the government officially brought forward articles of censure, with proceedings beginning two days later.

Day One

Day one of the committee involved a thorough retelling of Cohen's stance on a response to the Coronavirus; he was asked to defend his stance, and whether he knew his government's position could lead to a drastic rise in the number of Coronavirus cases in Acre. A particular point of focus was his opposition to the September Israeli lockdown; Conservative MPs pointed to the case of Sweden, who had similarly adopted a more lenient approach, which had led to a high rate of infection and death throughout 2020. Cohen was asked how he could believe his response would not put more Akkans at risk, given the effect of like policies elsewhere.

Cohen re-emphasised his belief that a national lockdown constituted an infringement of civil liberties. He also emphasised his government's support for distribution of PPE, encouragement of social distancing, support for a national work-at-home and furlough scheme, and a policy of educating the public on the dangers of the Coronavirus.

Day Two

On day two, Cohen was asked to explain why he decided to hold a vote in Parliament on endorsing the Israeli national lockdown, held in April. The leader of the PDU reminded Parliament that days prior to the vote, his party had threatened to revoke their confidence and supply arrangement in response to the Liberal Union's stance on the national lockdown.

It was revealed however that the Labor Zionist Party had also threatened to withdraw support for the government, though had communicated this privately to Cohen. Previously, Cohen had stated that his decision to hold a vote was motivated by clear support for a national lockdown from among the Akkan public. The revelation however that the vote was held in response to a joint threat by the other parties to revoke support for Cohen's government led to accusations of political machination. Conservative MPs suggested that the vote was only held in a desperate attempt to hold onto power by Cohen.

Cohen did not deny that the vote was held in response to the LZP's threat, stating that he believed a sudden change in government - or the holding of a national election - at such a crucial time would be disastrous to government COVID response, and so avoided this outcome through acquiescing to their demands and holding the vote.

Nevertheless, this revelation compounded many peoples' impression of Cohen; Conservative MPs portrayed him both as an inept politician bundling the government's response to the Coronavirus; and as a vain politician, desperately attempting to hold onto power. Many Labor MPs - who had previously worked with Cohen - reaffirmed this interpretation, portraying him as a dangerous dogmatist who had failed to respond to changing circumstances.

Day Three and the Vote

Day three of the committee involved very little debate, with Cohen providing a final defence, and a Labor MP providing a final summation of the case for censure.

By lunchtime, the vote was held; all of the Liberal Union, alongside one PDU MP voted against censure. All Conservative, Labor and MH MPs voted to censure, as well as three PDU MPs, one PEP MP and the sole Communist MP. One PEP MP and two PDU MPs abstained. The three dissenting PDU MPs agreed that Cohen had failed in his response to the Coronavirus, but called the censure a piece of political theatre by the Conservative Party.

Political party For Against Abstain
Conservative Party 11 0 0
Liberal Union 0 10 0
People's Democratic Union 3 1 2
Labor Zionist Party 5 0 0
Movement for the Homeland 2 0 0
Peace & Equality Party 1 0 1
Communist Party 1 0 0
Total 23 11 3

Aftermath

Shortly after the vote, a member of the Peace & Equality Party informed the government that the party was being courted by the Liberal Union for a vote of no confidence. With the government lacking a majority by 18-19, this would likely trigger a new election. In response, Prime Minister Ben Adelman held a vote of confidence, believing the Union feared an election due to Joseph Cohen's unpopularity.