Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
What?: Israel elects its 20th Knesset (legislature).
When?: Today, March 17. Irish Israelis can vote drunk. Exit polls will be broadcast at 10 PM Israel time (4 PM EDT).
How? Each voter shows her photo ID — crazy, right? — to members of a three-person panel, who check the name against their lists. If the voter passes, he or she is given an envelope and goes behind a partition where there’s a tray of white slips of paper with each party’s code letters in big writing and name in small writing. This goes back to Israel’s founding, when many new immigrants couldn’t read Hebrew. The voter chooses a slip, puts it in an envelope, and then puts the envelope in the box in front of the observers.
When do we get the results? At 10 PM Israel time (4 PM EDT) tonight (Tuesday, March 17), Israel’s three television networks will broadcast the results of their exit polls.
At 10:01 each party will declare victory. Herzog will state that they did even better than pre-election polls, that they’re the biggest party, and that they’ll form the next government. On two of those three, he’ll be telling the truth.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu will announce that they had a late surge that pulled Likud to victory, that they narrowed the gap with Labor, and that he will be the next prime minister. He’ll be essentially correct.
It’s a fun night of TV — unless you’re the party lost — with each station having political comedians, pundits, and politicians celebrating, posturing, and analyzing results. It’s probably the only night where more Israelis are watching the Israeli networks than American television shows and movies. The actual results roll in through the night.
A couple of days later, we get the “double envelope” votes: soldiers, diplomats in foreign countries, hospital patients, and a few others who are allowed to vote away from their normal voting stations. This vote — which is not projected in the exit polls — usually shifts a seat from the left to the right. Last year it moved the right and religious bloc’s total from 60 to 61.
How are Knesset seats determined? Parties that don’t cross the “Electoral Threshold” — recently doubled, to 3.25% — have their votes thrown out. The remaining vote total is proportionally allocated among the remaining parties. There’s also a small trick, a bit reminiscent of Richard Pryor’s trick in Superman III, where the allocation is done by rounding down. The remainders are allocated in a weird formula that favors the big parties, and will hurt Yachad, Yesh Atid, and the Joint Arab List, which could not find partners for a vote sharing agreement.
How is the government formed? The negotiations will kick into high gear after the vote. Prime Minister Netanyahu has the big advantage according to current numbers. About a week after the elections, the president will invite delegations from each party to tell him who they support, and whether they’d consider the other guy. The president then decides who to ask to attempt to form the coalition. If that person fails, the president can give somebody else a chance.
The current president was in Netanyahu’s Likud, but there’s a lot of animosity between the two. Leaks from the president’s office indicate that he’d like to push for a “national unity government” where Likud and Labor sit together. Netanyahu indicated that he will resist such pressure. Whoever is appointed by the president must then complete negotiations to form a government of at least 61 members.
What are the issues? Judging by the campaigns, the biggest questions of this election have been:
- Is Bibi Netanyahu a stoopidhead?
- How much does that matter?
The last two times the left won the election, their campaign was all about “changing the national priorities.” They focused on social and economic issues, and downplayed the differences on peace and war. And they focused on why the Likud was bad and didn’t care about people like them. This time is no different. The right, as always, is trying to focus on security issues and fears that Labor will cause immeasurable, long-term damage on the peace and security front if they gain power. The smaller parties are focused on various niche and tribal issues.
What do the polls show? Below are the final polling averages courtesy of Knesset Jeremy.
Labor will likely be the biggest party, but Likud is likely to have the only viable path to a coalition.
What do these parties want? Here’s a great satiric flowchart:
Until when does this Knesset serve? The Knesset can serve until November (actually, the Hebrew month of Cheshvan) 2019. In theory. The Israeli Knesset always calls early elections. The average is about three years per Knesset.