The ‘technical step’ that could decide the election - analysis

This time, Blue and White could get extra votes from Liberman, who polls already indicate is the kingmaker in the September election.

August 19, 2019 01:03
2 minute read.
The ‘technical step’ that could decide the election - analysis

Heads of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, and Avigdor Liberman, Head of rightist Yisrael Beiteinu party. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Voters across the political spectrum woke up on Sunday to news that could decide the September 17 election.

Rockets falling on the Gaza periphery? No, the Likud won the Gaza periphery by a landslide the last two elections despite rockets harming civilians during the races.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Ukraine? No, everyone knows Netanyahu is a world traveler whose strong suit is foreign relations.

A mole discovered in the Blue and White party? No, that internal fight was in the last election, too, and they still won 35 seats.

The big news was that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman would sign a surplus vote-sharing agreement with Blue and White, a move downplayed by Liberman as a “technical step,” which it is.

Surplus-vote sharing agreements enable votes for a party to move to another if they both have votes beyond the amount a seat is calculated to be worth. Calculations are done to determine whether there are enough extra votes between the two to give the party with more extra votes another seat.

“I see no problem with this technical step,” he said. “We made an agreement with [then-New Right co-leader] Ayelet Shaked last time, and her party is making a deal with Likud this time, so no other party was available. And anyway, Netanyahu is not really right-wing either.”

Liberman is correct that out of the nine parties expected to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold, no other party was available. By the September 6 deadline, Likud will sign with Yamina, Labor with the Democratic-Union, Shas with United Torah Judaism, and the Joint List will purposely not sign with anyone.

In the April 9 election, Blue and White did not sign such an agreement because older parties paired up and left the new kid on its own. Had they signed such a deal, they could have received a 36th seat, one more than Likud, and been asked by President Reuven Rivlin to form a coalition.

This time Blue and White could receive extra votes from Liberman, who polls already indicate will be the kingmaker after next month’s ballot. This agreement is significant, for a variety of reasons.

First, the race is expected to be very close, so every seat matters.

Second, Likud has devoted a large percentage of its campaign budget to attract votes from Russian-speakers, and according to polls, is not making any headway. Blue and White could get those Russian-speaking votes with a mere signature on the deal.

Lastly, Liberman is indicating with this practical step that he feels comfortable with Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid becoming prime minister. He even told KAN Radio that he is willing to take the risk of Netanyahu warning the Right that Liberman will give its votes to Gantz.

If Liberman gives surplus votes to Gantz on election night, the former defense minister could crown the former chief of staff as the next prime minister. If that happens, everyone can look back at Sunday morning’s news as a technical move that ended up having very serious ramifications.

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