September 2019 election outcome

While the political situation is complicated, four major changes can be noted when comparing the April and September election results.

Israel elections:time to vote. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel elections:time to vote.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The election for the 22nd Knesset ended without a clear result. In the battle between the two major parties, Blue and White won 33 mandates, compared to the Likud, which won only 32. Neither of the candidates for the post of prime minister, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu, has a majority of 61 Knesset members needed to form a government. Gantz is supported by 54 MKs: 44 from the Center-Left bloc (Blue and White 33; Labor-Gesher 6; and Democratic Union 5), and 10 out of 13 the Joint Arab List MKs. Netanyahu is supported by 55 MKs of the right-wing and religious parties (Likud 32; Shas 9; UTJ 7; and Yamina 7). Meanwhile, the eight MKs of Yisrael Beiteinu, who have called for the establishment of a Zionist unity government without the Joint Arab List, decided not to recommend either candidate.
As a result, the only viable political option is the establishment of a unity government in which Netanyahu and Gantz will rotate in the post of prime minister.
While the political situation is complicated, four major changes can be noted when comparing the April and September election results.
1) The slight rise in voter turnout, from 68.5% to 70%, was a result of the increase in voting among the Arab public. Moreover, in April 8.5% of the votes were given to parties that did not pass the 3.25% threshold; in September, only 3% of the votes were lost. Therefore, while 33,000 votes were needed for winning one Knesset seat in April, this number increased to 36,000 votes in September.
2) In April, the Arab parties won 8% of the votes (10 seats). In September, the Joint Arab List garnered 10.5% (13 seats), an increase of almost a third in its power. The success of the Joint Arab List can be attributed to PM Netanyahu, who, in his remarks against the Arab population in his election campaign, only encouraged the Arab public to participate in the elections. Thus, the turnout among the Arab public increased from 50% to 60%.
3) Although the Center-Left bloc retained its power, there were shifts of voters within the bloc. Blue and White won 26% of the votes, retaining its gain in the April election, but the party lost two seats, from 35 to 33, following an increase in the votes-for-mandate ratio. There were also movements in the results of the two other parties in the Central-Left bloc. Despite losing votes among the Arab public (probably due to the union with Ehud Barak’s new party), the Democratic Union strengthened its power in the September election from 3.5% (4 seats) to 4.5% (5 seats), largely at the expense of Labor. On the other hand, although Labor-Gesher strengthened slightly from 4.5% to 5% (remaining at six seats), a significant proportion of Labor voters in the April elections who did not embrace the political collaboration between Amir Peretz and Orly Levy chose to vote instead for the Democratic Union. Thus, despite Peretz’s desire to take votes from the right-wing bloc, the union between Labor and Gesher did not prove effective at all, as, the new joint list actually received fewer votes in September than both won separately in the April election – 5% vs 6% respectively.
4) The most significant transformations occurred in the right-wing bloc, as many votes wandered between the right-wing parties. Likud, which dropped from 26.5% to 25% (from 35 to 32 seats), was able to get some of the votes of Kulanu and Zehut (which won 3.5% and 2.5% respectively in the April), both of which merged with the Likud prior the September elections. Nevertheless, Likud lost votes mainly to Shas, which grew from 6% to 7.5% (from eight to nine seats), mainly due to the fear of Orthodox Likud voters that Netanyahu would choose to form a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Likud also lost votes to Yisrael Beiteinu, which swelled in September, from 4% to 7% (from five to eight seats). Thus, being successfully labeled as the secular public’s defender against the ultra-Orthodox parties’ demands, Lieberman managed to take many votes from Likud and Kulanu. Another ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, retained its power and received 6% of the votes, yet lost one seat (from 8 to 7), due to the increase of the vote-to-mandate ratio.
The religious Zionist parties also registered interesting results. In April, the religious Zionist movement ran under two lists (New Right and URWP), which together won 7% of the votes. The scenario repeated itself in September, as the two separate lists (Yamina and Otzma) won 8% together. However, while in April URWP won 3.5% (5 seats) and New Right failed to pass the threshold, in September, Yamina won 6% (7 seats) and Otzma remained outside the Knesset. Thus, it was the second time in a row that the religious Zionist movement lost votes and seats due to internal political disputes.
In conclusion, assuming Yisrael Beiteinu is counted among the right-wing bloc, the latter dropped from 65 to 63 seats, the center-left bloc dropped from 45 to 44, and the Arab bloc rose from 10 to 13 seats. Today, in order to unite the Israeli public and deal with the important challenges facing the State of Israel, the establishment of a broad unity government led by the Likud and Blue and White is desperately needed.
The writer is research assistant and PhD candidate at the University of South Wales, and was a foreign affairs and political adviser to former Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog, former deputy chairman of the Labor Party Youth, and a candidate on the Labor Knesset list.