Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer ruled Sunday to reject a request from the Union of Right Wing Parties to bump Otzma Yehudit party candidate Itamar Ben Gvir up two spots on its joint slate for the upcoming elections, in order to take the place of his disqualified colleague Michael Ben Ari.
Concurring with the position of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Melcer determined that the current law does not grant his committee jurisdiction to alter Knesset candidate lists once the deadline for submitting party slates has past. The deadline for the coming April 9 elections was February 21.
The URWP blasted the decision saying that, “as expected, Justice Melcer fell in love with the procedure and abandoned the essence.” The right-wing party has argued that the unprecedented nature of the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify Ben Ari for incitement of violence warranted flexibility in allowing them to alter their list accordingly.
Ben Ari had been placed at number five on the URWP slate, which is an amalgam of the Jewish Home, National Union and Otzma Yehudit. The latter party’s number 2, its only other candidate on the URWP slate, Ben Gvir, was placed at number eight.
Each candidate below Ben Ari on the slate last was moved up one spot, after the Supreme Court decision.
Polls currently show URWP getting 6-7 seats, meaning there is a chance no member of Otzma Yehudit will actual enter the Knesset.
The last time Mandelblit made a recommendation to the committee regarding Otzma Yehudit — that its chairman Michael Ben Ari be disqualified over his incitement to racism — the elections body disregarded his view by green-lighting the candidacy of the right-wing extremist on March 6.
However, a group of opposition lawmakers appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which, in an 8-1 decision on Sunday, officially barred Ben Ari from running because of his anti-Arab ideology and incitement.
The ruling marked the first time in the court’s history that the candidacy of an individual, rather than a party or faction, was barred.