The lost votes

Nearly 250,000 ballots were cast for parties that will not make it into the 19th Knesset.

AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Twenty political parties have thus far failed to pass the electoral threshold in Tuesday’s elections, bringing the total number of so-called “wasted votes” up to almost 250,000, according to statistics released by the Central Elections Committee Wednesday.
In total, 247,967 ballots were cast for parties that failed to obtain the two percent of the total vote necessary to enter the Knesset, and as such, will not be included in the calculations for apportioning the legislature’s 120 seats.
These votes, if taken as a percentage of the total number of ballots cast, are equivalent to around eight mandates.
The current figure of approximately a quarter million stands at over a hundred thousand more than the 104,000 such ballots tallied in the 2009 elections.
While the number of wasted votes has fluctuated over the past decade, it has remained high. In 2006, 183,000 were cast for failed parties while there were 132,000 in 2003.
The largest party expected to fail, and therefore the closest to making it into the Knesset, was the far-Right Strong Israel party of MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arieh Eldad – elected as members of the National Union party – which garnered 1.73% of the vote with 61,825 ballots.
The smallest party and the biggest loser in terms of pure numbers was the Moreshet Avot party, which only received 499 votes, or 0.01% of the total cast.
It is generally considered difficult for parties without currently serving MKs to pass the threshold.
Aside from Strong Israel, another small party that did not make it into the Knesset despite the presence of a serving MK at its head was MK Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem party, which came in at 1.2% of the total vote with 43,095 of its supporters casting ballots.
Dr. Ofer Kenig, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, told The Jerusalem Post that some of the wasted votes are “definitely protest votes.”
Parties on the extreme Right and Left received support, he said, from people who “rather than stay at home and not vote decided to vote for these protest lists.”
However, he asserted, not all of the votes cast for these parties could be accounted for by the protest vote.
“Lots of parties that didn’t pass the electoral threshold had very extensive social network activity with Facebook and Twitter,” Kenig explained.
“Am Shalem, Eretz Hadasha and Green Leaf all had very lively debates and lively activities within the social networks and I guess that this created a kind of a buzz, a sense that ‘Yeah, we can make it’ because of how many supporters they had on Facebook. This created a false feeling, an illusion, that they had a lot of supporters.”
Such an illusion led to people casting ballots for parties without much of a chance, he elaborated.
There is a good chance that the incoming Knesset will pass legislation raising the electoral threshold, Kenig believes, stating that such a move would “present a very big obstacle” for the small parties in the next election.
The number of small parties, he concluded, is “a testament that we have a very open political arena. The electoral threshold is doing a very reasonable and decent job in the sense that it is keeping democracy alive while diminishing the fragmentation of the Knesset, which is high enough already.”