Record 43 parties are tentativelyregistered for February's election

Forty-three parties have registered with the Parties Registrar at the Justice Ministry in advance of the 2009 general elections, far more than the 31 that competed in the 2006 elections for the 17th Knesset and the 27 lists that ran for the 16th Knesset. The law requires parties to be registered for the general elections by 47 days before Election Day. The party representatives will now come to the Knesset on Wednesday and Sunday to formally register their lists for the general elections with the Central Elections Committee (CEC). "Usually we set two registration days, one after the other, for parties to arrive at the CEC to register," Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes explained Monday. "This year we had to separate the days because of Christmas. The non-Jewish parties had asked to postpone the second registration day so they could celebrate Christmas," which falls on Thursday, he said. The 43 lists registered at the Justice Ministry was a record, but Pordes noted that it didn't necessarily mean that all the lists would actually run. One issue that will be clarified Wednesday is which letters the new parties would receive. "Because the letters are given away on a first-come, first-serve basis, prior to the registration for the 17th Knesset we had people sleeping outside the Knesset to be the first to get the better letters," Pordes said. Currently, the only single Hebrew letters available are nun, peh, kuf, and the suffixes peh and tzadi. Parties that want to use the letters bet, heh, het, tet and yod will have to get permission from the parties that used those letters in the local elections in November. Use of any letter already used by a veteran party required that party's permission, Pordes noted. "If one of the new parties wants to use the letter lamed, for example, in a combination of letters or a word, they will have to ask the permission of both Likud and Israel Beitenu that have used it first. But usually there is no problem getting the parties' permission," he added. On Wednesday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the new parties will arrive at the CEC office to ask for a letter and present their list of Knesset candidates. Since the electoral threshold translates into a minimum of two mandates, each party must have at least two people on its list. Larger parties often submit up to 120 names, the same as the number of MKs in the Knesset. On Sunday, between 6 p.m. to midnight, representatives of the veteran parties are expected to register with the CEC. Parties whose representatives arrived at the Knesset after midnight would not be allowed to register. "We even throw a formal ceremony exactly at midnight, when the Knesset usher gives the CEC chairman, former Supreme Court deputy president Justice Eliezer Rivlin, a big cardboard key that symbolizes the key to the Knesset. By doing this he announces on the closing of the registration," Pordes said. "All in all, it is a festive day." Meanwhile, on Monday Rivlin sent a letter to all Israeli editors and political reporters, complaining that local media, when reporting on poll results, tend to lump the Arab parties together. "MK Dov Henin (Hadash) brought to my attention that there is a tendency to include all Arab parties in the polls for the Knesset as one bloc, while customarily providing details about each one of the rest of the parties," Rivlin wrote. He asked the editors and reporters to elaborate on the number of Knesset seats each Arab party was expected to get separately, "so the balance of power will be clear also among the Arab parties, which clearly are not one," Rivlin wrote.