Election czar rebuffs Netanyahu allegations of Arab fraud, says vote went smoothly
Central Elections Committee head Orly Adas says incidents were minor and were dealt with, as Likud leader tries to cast doubt on votes received by Arab parties
The head of the Central Elections Committee said early Wednesday morning that election voting had gone smoothly, after Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu made unfounded accusations of “fake” votes.
Orly Adas, director-general of the Central Elections Committee, said irregularities were isolated and minor at some of the 12,000 voting stations nationwide as Israel held its fifth election in under four years.
“There were a number of incidents throughout election day but they weren’t dramatic and were taken care of,” she said.
“Overall the day went very well for us,” Adas told Army Radio.
Netanyahu and his Likud party have repeatedly alleged voter irregularities at certain polling stations in Arab communities without providing evidence to back it up.
“Likud warns of a wide-scale effort to violently forge the election results,” the party said in a statement Tuesday after polls closed. It alleged that right-wing poll watchers were subject to violence and threats once exit polls showed that “results of the election hinged on the results for Balad.”
The Arab party Balad is hovering near the electoral threshold needed to win Knesset representation. If the party makes it into the Knesset, it could tip the scale back toward a split between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs.
Netanyahu also repeated an unfounded accusation of voter irregularities at certain polling stations in Arab communities, saying that he was waiting for the “real count, not the fake count that somebody is trying to subvert by violence or intimidation.”
The Central Elections Committee said in response that it had no evidence of irregularities at polling stations in Arab communities.
“Given that the counting [of votes] has just begun, there is definitely no basis for unfounded rumors about supposed ‘forgeries’ in one community or another,” the committee said.
Police also shot down the accusation, saying there were no indications of voting irregularities.
Netanyahu nonetheless alluded to the unfounded accusations during a speech to backers early Wednesday morning, demanding “a full accounting of votes, because that is the basis of democracy,” in a speech to backers early Wednesday morning.
Exit polls Tuesday night showed Balad likely several thousand votes shy of meeting the 3.25% electoral threshold necessary to enter the Knesset. Two other Arab parties, Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am, were forecast to return to parliament with four to five seats each.
The Likud leader has habitually raised accusations of election fraud among Arabs. In 2019, his push for cameras in polling booths was widely seen as an attempt to dampen turnout among Arabs.
There were a number of reports of voting issues in some areas throughout the day, including instances of violence at polling stations in Carmiel, Rehovot, Taibe, and the Krayot region.
In Yarka, police were stationed at polling booths and poll workers who were members of political parties were replaced by unaffiliated officials after reports that empty voting envelopes were stolen.
In Beit Shemesh, a polling station was closed and moved to a new location after extremists sprayed a foul-smelling liquid in an apparent attempt to discourage voters.
As voting drew to a close, Central Election Committee chairman Justice Yitzhak Amit ruled that ballot slips that have small holes, are dirty, or have been drawn or scribbled on, should be counted as votes, following various complaints about corrupted ballot slips.
Every ballot cast will be included in the result, unless it absolutely cannot be accepted as a valid ballot, he wrote.
As of 5 a.m. Wednesday some 10,000 votes out of 1.6 million counted so far had been disqualified for various reasons, according to official figures.