Daily Israel Report

Soldiers' Vote May Swing the Elections to a Tie

"It’s not over until it's over." Kadima edged out Likud 28-27, but the votes of soldiers have not been counted and may create a Kadima-Likud tie.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 2/11/2009, 4:18 AM

Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Voters gave Kadima 28 mandates in the next Knesset, one more than Likud, with almost all of Tuesday's ballots counted but not including votes of diplomats and soldiers, whose votes will be counted on Wednesday and Thursday. Their ballots are equal to five mandates.

Following is the current number of estimated MKs for each party following the counting of 99% of the available votes:

Kadima 28
Likud 27
Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) 14
Labor 13
Shas 11
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) 5
Ichud Leumi (National Union) 4
Jewish Home 3
Meretz 3
Arab parties 12

The votes of the armed forces usually tilt to the nationalist and religious parties, and are likely to create at least a tie and may even put Likud in the lead. The votes of diplomats overseas and soldiers changed the results in the last election by taking one Knesset seat away from Kadima. The number of Arab MKs also will likely be reduced after the soldiers' ballots are counted.

Kadima, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, pulled ahead of the Likud by one MK, in a surprise finish. The biggest losers are the Meretz and Labor parties, while Arab parties are currently projected to place three more legislators in the Knesset than they currently have.
 
The Likud has the potential backing of 64 MKs, and the chances of Livni's forming a national unity government appeared nil after Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman spelled out his conditions that it would not join a government that does not want to bring down the Hamas government in Gaza. The party also strongly favors pledging Israeli citizens to a loyalty oath, a move that Kadima rejects.

Livni has declared victory by virtue of apparently winning the most mandates, but Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman each said that the votes for the nationalist and religious parties clearly give them the right to control the next government.