Overnight on Wednesday, election officials counted the final votes cast in the Israeli national elections but at least one party is demanding a recount as irregularities appear. The results were so close for several of the smaller parties that a few votes could make a huge difference.
The final 265,000 votes representing about six percent of the total electorate were finally counted on Thursday morning. These were the votes cast by soldiers, diplomats, medical staff and patients in hospitals, prisoners and disabled people.
Though it seems clear that Benjamin Netanyahu as the head of Likud will be tasked with forming a right-wing coalition government and the votes in question will not change that, the recount can make or break several of the smaller parties. According to Israeli election laws. a party must receive a minimum of 3.25 percent of the votes in order to be in the Knesset.
So far, the recount has given Likud another seat, bringing their total to 36. Kulanu also received an additional seat and has risen to five seats. United Torah Judaism dropped from eight to seven and the United Right Wing Parties (URWP) dropped to four seats. Left-wing Meretz went up to five seats.
The New Right Party headed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked has the most at stake. On Thursday morning, the party stood at 3.14 percent of the vote, 4,300 votes short of earning the minimum three seats in the Knesset. But even after the final batch of ballots were counted, the New Right only moved up to 3.22 percent, a mere 1,380 votes short of the threshold. A glitch in the Central Elections Committee system led to a post on their website that awarded the New Right 3.26 percent. The glitch caused a discrepancy in the tally of approximately 60,000 votes. On the committee’s official website, the total number of valid votes for all the parties running in the elections was listed as 4,291,707. The website listed the number of valid votes as 4,231,424.
The New Right party is currently requesting a recount as is the URWP. Due to the coalition aspect of the Israeli political process, these few votes could have an enormous impact on how Netanyahu builds his government. Times of Israel reported that if the New Right party does succeed in entering the Knesset, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would grow from 65 to 67 seats while Blue and White led by Benny Ganz would see their left-wing bloc shrink from 35 to 33.
The finally tally was also a source of concern for the Ra’am-Balad, the Arab party, which came close to losing its place in the Knesset. After the initial count of ballots was completed on Wednesday morning the party won 3.45 percent of the votes and stood just 8,400 votes over the threshold. They were not expected to garner a significant number of votes from active-duty IDF soldiers and indeed, they slipped to 3.38 percent of the vote.
The system of voting in Israel is decidedly antiquated with ballots being placed in an envelope and then into a ballot box. The paper ballots must be counted by hand and then entered into a computer system.