Political Deadlock Persists despite Netanyahu’s Numerical Victory

Israel’s far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly claimed on Tuesday night, March 23, “a huge victory” for his Likud party in Israel’s unprecedented fourth election in two years — but the actual counting of votes suggests his right-wing bloc may not have enough Knesset seats to form a ruling coalition. Israel’s longest-serving premier thanked voters on Tuesday night saying, “You gave a huge win to the right and Likud under my leadership. Likud is the biggest party by far. It’s clear most Israelis are right-wing, and want a strong, stable right-wing government.”

Joint List chair, MK Ayman Odeh, votes at his neighborhood polling station in Haifa on March 23, 2021 in the fourth Israeli election in two years.

Joint List chair, MK Ayman Odeh, votes at his neighborhood polling station in Haifa on March 23, 2021 in the fourth Israeli election in two years. (Photo: Joint List)

However, as the Central Elections Committee updates its tally, with 87% of the votes counted by noon on Wednesday, March 24, the results suggest that the prime minister and right-wing secular, national religious, orthodox and racist allies may ultimately fall short of a parliamentary majority of 61 seats, meaning there is no clear winner in the tight race. According to the latest figures at 12:00pm the day after the vote, the pro-Netanyahu bloc of parties plus Yamina had dropped to 59 seats, with the Islamist Ra’am party passing the electoral threshold, after doubts with the initial television projections, giving it 5 seats, thereby shaking up the map. The results at that hour gave the Likud 30 seats; Yesh Atid 17; Shas 9; Blue & White 8; Labor 7; Yamina 7; United Torah Judaism 7; Israel Beytenu 7; the Joint List 6; Religious Zionism 6; New Hope 6; Meretz 5; and Ra’am 5.

The three-party Joint List is expected to take just six of the seats; with five more from Ra’am this represents a considerable drop from the 15 they secured in the last election a year ago. The drop is due to Ra’am s breaking with the Joint List and a relatively lower number of Arab voters going to the polls this time, which may have been a result of the split itself. However, the head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) said, “I’m happy that Mansour Abbas passed [the electoral threshold] – I am devastated by the split between us.”

The director of the Central Elections Committee, Orly Adas, announced that the final results from all the regular polling stations will be confirmed and published this morning, Thursday, March 25. According to Adas, the polling stations have all finished counting but the elections committee is checking the results according to protocol and gradually updating the total tally. Adas also said that some 450,000 “double envelope” ballots were — absentee votes cast anywhere outside of one’s assigned polling station. In the previous three elections, the number of people voting by double-envelope rose from 240,000, to 280,000, to 330,000 in the last election on March 2, 2020. The final election results will be published on Friday morning, March 26.