Final vote count bumps UTJ up to 8 seats, Likud down to 35; New Right still out
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Final vote count bumps UTJ up to 8 seats, Likud down to 35; New Right still out

Amended numbers released by elections committee bring Netanyahu’s party to parity with Blue and White; results to be presented to president Wednesday

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, left, at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then-health minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party, left, at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

The Central Elections Committee on Tuesday said the United Torah Judaism party had received an additional Knesset seat at the expense of Likud, in final election results that are to be presented to President Reuven Rivlin Wednesday.

UTJ now has eight seats, while Likud is down to 35 — the same number as the Blue and White party.

The CEC thus confirmed UTJ’s claim from a day earlier, when party chairman Yaakov Litzman said he had been informed of the change. At the time the CEC said it had not provided any parties with “interim updates regarding the election results.”

In recent days several parties, including UTJ, had complained to the committee over what they believed were mishandled ballot boxes or other problems at one or more of the country’s 10,000-plus polling stations on election day. The Central Election Committee’s results had earlier placed UTJ just several hundred ballots shy of an eighth seat.

Additional inspection as the CEC completed its reviews and amended its tallies awarded the party with the extra seat.

The CEC also said it had examined claims of irregularities and counting errors by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party, and looked into the count at dozens of polling stations cited by Bennett.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett hold a press conference of the New Right Political party, in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

The committee said its teams had worked throughout Monday and through the night to examine the claims and found no substantial errors. In fact, it said it had found the party had been mistakenly awarded three votes to many.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured the backing of a majority of Knesset members as Yisrael Beytenu, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and Kulanu recommended him to form the next government in their official consultations with Rivlin.

With 10 of the 11 parties elected to the Knesset having now presented their recommendations to Rivlin, Netanyahu has the backing of 65 MKs, a majority of the 120-seat Knesset. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, in contrast, has just 45.

The president said his choice was now “all but certain” and he is expected to entrust the task of forming a government to Netanyahu, who is likely to be able to build a coalition of up to 65 seats comprising Likud (35 seats), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Kulanu (4), and, likely, Yisrael Beytenu (5).

For the first time, the recommendations were broadcast live, a decision the president’s office announced last week “in the name of transparency” and “in a historic and pioneering decision.”

After the president makes his selection, the chosen MK will have 28 days to form a government, with the possibility of a two-week extension at the discretion of the president.

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