Final 265,000 votes being counted, with fate of New Right in the balance

Officials count the remaining ballots from soldiers and absentees at the Knesset in Jerusalem, a day after the general elections, April 10, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Tallying ballots from soldiers, diplomats and prisoners likely to be completed Thursday morning, with Naftali Bennett’s party 4,300 votes short of entering Knesset

The Central Elections Committee was overnight Wednesday-Thursday counting the final 265,000 ballots that, while unlikely to change the overall picture of Tuesday’s general election, could make or break several parties hovering around the cusp of the election threshold. The count includes votes from soldiers, diplomats, medical staff and patients in hospitals, prisoners and disabled people (3,940 special stations were accessible to voters with disabilities), representing about six percent of the total number of ballots cast in the election.

The count will likely continue through the night until Thursday morning, the committee said in a statement. The remaining votes have usually led to relatively minor changes in the distribution of Knesset seats, but could potentially have a more fateful role this time. In a shock development, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party narrowly failed to enter the Knesset on the basis of the count thus far, garnering just 3.14% of the vote, some 4,300 votes under the electoral threshold. The final votes, the party was hoping, might lift it above the threshold — from no seats to four seats.

The tally of the last batch of votes could also theoretically imperil Arab party Ra’am-Balad, which has 3.45%, just 8,400 votes over the threshold, and isn’t likely to garner many of the soldiers’ and diplomats’ votes. Other parties projected to be not much further ahead when the extra votes are tallied were Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu (3.56%, 12,300 over the threshold), Meretz (3.64%, 15,700 votes over the threshold) and the Union of Right-Wing Parties (3.66%, 16,700 votes over the threshold). Additionally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party was ahead of its centrist rival, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction, by a mere 13,000 votes.

The New Right said it was confident that it would pass the electoral threshold after the final votes were tallied. A party official told The Times of Israel that there was a “very positive initial overview” of votes being counted. The official claimed it appeared that at least five percent of the ballots had been cast for New Right, enough to give it approximately 15,000 additional votes, more than enough to enter the Knesset.

Bennett himself said in a statement to reporters Wednesday morning: “All my life I gave everything I could for this good nation. I’ve always been a soldier of the state — in [elite IDF unit] Sayeret Matkal, as a high-tech entrepreneur, as education minister and in the security cabinet during Operation Protective Edge [in Gaza in 2014]. “Now, the soldiers will decide where I will continue to fight for them.”

Netanyahu clinch a clear electoral victory, with Likud tied with Blue and White at 35 in terms of Knesset seats, but the right-wing bloc with a handy lead and Netanyahu having a clear path to forming a governing coalition. Blue and White conceded defeat on Wednesday evening. Likud snagged 26.27% of the vote, the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.

Source: The Times of Israel