Bennett and Shaked to part ways after stunning defeat – report
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Bennett and Shaked to part ways after stunning defeat – report

Central Elections Committee says that other than one uncounted ballot, New Right team did not find any ‘missing’ votes

Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announce the establishment of the New Right party, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on December 29, 2018. (Jack Guez AFP/File)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announce the establishment of the New Right party, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on December 29, 2018. (Jack Guez AFP/File)

New Right leaders Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett will reportedly part ways following a surprisingly poor election showing last week that saw the party fall just short of the votes needed to get into the Knesset.

Sources close to the two lawmakers told Channel 13 news on Sunday that the pair, who have not been seen together since the final election results were released on Thursday, would soon dissolve their political alliance.

According to some reports, Shaked could join the ruling Likud party.

The New Right had one of the most disappointing performances of the 2019 election. The two popular pro-settler ministers split from their religious-nationalist Jewish Home party and sought greater power by appealing to new secular voters, but the maneuver backfired.

Final election results published by the Central Elections Committee showed Bennett and Shaked’s faction narrowly failing to clear the necessary 3.25 percent Knesset threshold. The final results included tallies of soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and hospital patients who vote in unusual circumstances.

Israelis count the remaining ballots from soldiers and absentees at the parliament in Jerusalem, a day after the general elections, April 10, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90 )

The New Right had pinned its hopes on the soldiers’ votes, and challenged the count, claiming that thousands of ballots in double sealed envelopes from IDF bases went missing after Tuesday’s election.

The chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, on Sunday agreed to an “immediate” review of the New Right’s request, but slammed the party for making “false claims” about alleged vote-counting “irregularities.”

In a statement, the committee, which oversees Israel’s elections, said it “wishes to clarify that it doesn’t take lightly the false claims being made by the New Right, according to which there were irregularities in the counting of double-envelope ballots.”

The unusually harsh statement said that Melcer had granted party officials permission to review the data from the special ballot boxes.

Channel 13 reported that Bennett personally led a team of over 100 volunteers in a search for the allegedly missing ballots at storage warehouse in the central city of Shoham on Sunday.

New Right supporters watch TV channels announce their exit poll results at the party’s campaign headquarters in Bnei Brak on April 9, 2019. (Jacob Magid/The Times of Israel)

Later, the committee released a statement saying that other than one uncounted ballot, Bennett and his team did not find any “missing” votes for the New Right.

Party sources confirmed to the Haaretz daily that Bennett did not find evidence of irregularities at the storage warehouse, but said the team would continue its search for the votes by examining polling protocols and the data entry records.

Parties have until Wednesday, when Melcer is set to hand over the final and certified election results to President Reuven Rivlin, to mount any challenges.

Besides the New Right, a number of other parties, including United Torah Judaism and Meretz, have also complained to the committee about mishandled ballots on election day.

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