The Central Elections Committee opened its doors Wednesday for the second and final day for parties to register their slates ahead of March’s election.
Registration ended by 10 p.m., but any party whose representatives are inside the Knesset building, where the committee sits, by that time was allowed to file by the legal deadline of midnight.
One by one, parties presented their slates to the committee’s chair, Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel, filing details on each candidate and requesting a letter or letters from the Hebrew alphabet that will represent them on ballot slips come March.
In an antiquated and at-times bizarre process, new parties compete for the free letters not already in use by existing parties, which are given out on a first come, first served basis. The last of the parties to register are therefore forced to take obscure pairings of letters that make little sense and have no relation to their party name.
The discussions over the letters are significant in that each paper ballot slip for each party must be printed as many times as there are eligible voters, with extras printed to make sure no one is prevented from voting for their preferred party. With approximately 6,300,000 Israelis eligible to vote, the spokesperson for the Central Elections Committee said that some eight million slips would be printed per party.
While over 40 have taken registrations forms, only 10 parties had filed by Tuesday night: the Mishpat Tzedek party formed by the wife of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at a peace rally 24 years ago; Otzma Liberalit Kalkalit (Liberal Economic Power) headed by economist Gilad Alpher, who ran with Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party in the April election; HaHazon (The Vision); Ani V’ata (Me and You); Da’am; HaGush Hatanachi (The Bible Bloc); Zechuyotenu B’koleinu (Our Rights are in our Hands); Halev HaYehudi (The Jewish Heart); Mitkademet; and Manhigut Hevratit (Social Leadership).
The first to file Wednesday was the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, followed by the newly formed Kol HaNashim (Voice of the Women), a party made up entirely of women.
“Our aim to is increase the representation of women in the Knesset and to tackle all of the issues facing Israeli society from the perspective of women,” party chair Dr. Mazal Shaul told The Times of Israel after filing the new party’s 102 candidates.
Filing the party’s papers with the Central Elections Committee, The Pirate Party chairman Noam Kuzar, wearing a tricorne hat says that his party represents “all the people that think the current public discourse doesn’t represent them.”
The party registered its full name as “The Pirate Party: Click Here” because “in the next election, after we are elected, you will be able to vote by Internet. In fact, you will be able to vote by internet for each law,” Kuzar says.
The Pirate Party has run in every Israeli election for the last 15 years. It has never won a seat in the Knesset.
The other major parties were expected to file their slates throughout Wednesday evening, with both Blue and White and Likud scheduled to do so at 8 p.m., coinciding with the main nightly newscasts.
While most parties set to register have already closed their slates, several were still making changes on Wednesday afternoon, including both Likud and Blue and White. Also, the smaller right-wing parties remained at an impasse amid efforts to unite into one bloc.
On Wednesday afternoon, Blue and White announced that it was removing MK Gadi Yevarkan from its list of candidates after he threatened to move over to the rival Likud party.
Yevarkan, who was placed at number 33 on the electoral slate and has been a lawmaker since the April elections, told his party leadership earlier in the day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party had offered him the 20th spot on its own slate, and demanded a higher slot or else he could join Likud.
According to Channel 20, Yevarkan held a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the possible move.
Likud is also pushing for other right-wing parties to merge with an extremist faction in a bid to shore up support for his conservative bloc, in a repeat of a move that has drawn vociferous criticism against the premier in the past.
For the third election in a row, Likud is urging religious-Zionist parties to ensure that the Kahanist-inspired Otzma Yehudit party is part of their slate for the March 2 race, fearing that votes could be lost to parties that fail to clear the electoral threshold otherwise.
On Tuesday, coalition talks between the far-right Jewish Home and National Union factions fell apart, and within hours New Right inked an alliance agreement with the latter.
New Right has invited Jewish Home to join their alliance, though party leader Naftali Bennett has reportedly insisted that Jewish Home jettison a previous agreement to run with Otzma Yehudit, drawing angry criticism from Likud.