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Soldiers' Votes May Give Bayit Yehudi One More Seat

About 200,000 votes remain uncounted. An Election Committee official estimates they will make Shuli Mualem a Knesset Member.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/23/2013, 8:30 PM

Shuli Mualem
Shuli Mualem
PR photo

About 200,000 votes have yet to be counted in Israel's national election, and they may give Bayit Yehudi another seat – raising its total of MKs to 12 and allowing Shuli Mualem into the 19th Knesset.

The votes are the ones cast in the "double envelopes," and the process of counting them is supposed to be completed Thursday. Most of the double envelope votes are cast by soldiers, and the rest are those of patients in hospitals, and convicts in jail.

The Deputy Chairman of the Election Committee, Yehuda Avidan (Shas), said Wednesday that he expects Bayit Yehudi to gain another seat from the soldiers' votes, whereas Arab party Raam Taal will lose its fifth seat and remain with four.

Avidan also said that he thinks Kadima will fail to pass the threshold for entering the Knesset. Kadima currently lacks about 1,400 votes for entering the Knesset with two seats.

Other estimates say that while 200,000 votes can account for 6 or 7 Knesset seats, the double envelope votes are not expected to change the makeup of the Knesset. There is widespread agreement, however, that the votes will weaken hareidi and Arab parties, which are relatively weak in the IDF.

The soldiers' votes take longer to process because soldiers may also vote at polling stations next to their homes. Therefore, elections officials need to ascertain that the soldiers did not vote twice. When soldiers vote at military bases, their ballots are placed into an unmarked envelope, and this envelope is placed inside a second envelope, which bears the soldiers' name and ID number.

Elections officials receive the envelopes and check that the soldiers whose names appear on the envelopes did not vote at civilian polling stations. They then remove the unmarked envelopes from the marked ones, place them in a box and proceed to count the votes anonymously.