Hundreds of votes for PM’s rival Sa’ar ‘go missing’ in Likud primaries — report
Netanyahu orders that results be re-entered in database

Hundreds of votes for PM’s rival Sa’ar ‘go missing’ in Likud primaries — report

Channel 12 says Sa’ar could be eligible for fourth place on Knesset slate; Levin also a victim of ballot irregularities and could overtake Gallant

Gideon Sa'ar casts his vote at the Tel Aviv Likud polling station in the Likud primaries on February 5, 2019. (Flash90)
Gideon Sa'ar casts his vote at the Tel Aviv Likud polling station in the Likud primaries on February 5, 2019. (Flash90)

Hundreds of votes disappeared in the Likud party primaries held last week, including many that were cast for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival Gideon Sa’ar, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

The revelation comes after Netanyahu ordered that the results from all polling stations be re-entered in a database following the discovery of voting irregularities.

According to the report, a recount could lead to Sa’ar gaining a higher position on the party’s slate for the upcoming elections.

As examples, Channel 12 reported that in the results counted at the Sha’ar Binyamin locality in the West Bank, Sa’ar received 215 votes. However the official Likud party results only listed 160 votes for the former minister — a discrepancy of 55 ballots.

In Efrat, Sa’ar received 145 votes at the ballot box, but was only credited with 70 in the Likud results. According to the report, discrepancies can be found in the results from at least 15 polling locations across the country, and the results appear to be weighted against specific candidates — chief among them, Sa’ar.

Sa’ar trailed Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan by 540 votes in the primaries, but according to Channel 12, Sa’ar is missing 620 votes, which could push him up to fourth place on the Knesset slate and demote Erdan to fifth.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin is reportedly missing 530 votes, which could lift him above Yoav Gallant on the slate.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin speaks at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Other significant irregularities included multiple cases of specific candidates receiving more votes in some locales than the total number of ballots cast in those places, Channel 12 news had reported on Sunday.

The results of the vote, which determined the ruling party’s slate for the April 9 national elections, saw significant changes in the party list, with a shuffle in all five top slots behind Netanyahu, who automatically heads the list and did not run in the primaries.

According to the report, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis received 229 votes in the primaries in the settlement of Mitzpe Jericho, helping him to 14th place on the Knesset slate. The only problem: there are only 153 registered Likud voters there.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, there were 334 registered voters but Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev received 436 votes.

Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant received 780 votes in the city of Kiryat Malachi, where there were only 516 registered voters, while Transportation Minister Israel Katz got 1,061 votes in the city of Netivot, despite there only being 1,047 registered voters.

Although final vote counts have not yet been published, Likud has declared each candidate’s placement, with some slots separated by only hundreds of votes.

Likud MK Yoav Kisch chairs a Knesset Interior Affairs Committee meeting on July 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers and lawmakers, including Tzachi Hanegbi and Yoav Kisch, subsequently filed appeals on Monday against the results and demanded a recount in some of the polling stations.

However, Likud said that after examining the issue, the problem seemed to be in the typing of the results into the computerized system rather than with the counting itself.

The retyping of the results will begin on Wednesday and is expected to take two days, meaning that the final results will be published toward the end of the week.

Some 119,000 Likud party members were eligible to vote in a complicated ranking system for national and district candidates in 113 polling stations across the country. Fifty-eight percent of those eligible eventually voted, a jump from the 52% turnout in the last primaries held in 2014.

Also on Monday, Netanyahu announced that he was giving up one of the reserved spots for a candidate of his choice on the Likud slate, following pressure by several lawmakers who had been hurt by the move.

To obtain the final election slate, the list of primary winners is combined with reserved positions elected in special regional races, as well as minority candidates given guaranteed slots.

Likud members approved Netanyahu’s request to reserve the 21st, 28th and 36th spots for candidates of the premier’s choice.

But some members petitioned against the move, including Netanyahu loyalists David Bitan and Miki Zohar, as well as MK Sharren Haskel and Shevach Stern, who won the spot reserved for a candidate from Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu said Monday he was giving up the 21st slot, saying his decision was “out of respect for MKs David Bitan and Miki Zohar.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and David Bitan sharing a toast at a Likud faction meeting on February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

He will still be able to choose any candidate he wants for the 28th and 36th spots, and the party on Monday allowed him to secure another candidate in the 39th or 40th spot.

The decision means that MK Yoav Kisch will advance to the 21st slot on the Knesset slate, Bitan will move up to 24 and Zohar to 25.

In total, 142 candidates competed for the top spots on the electoral slate, all hoping to score high enough to ensure entry to the 120-seat Knesset. Among incumbent MKs and influential newcomers, there was intense competition for the highest spots on the ticket, which all but guarantee a position at the cabinet table.

An over-abundance of votes was also a problem in the last Likud primaries held at the end of 2014, leading to two recounts of votes to settle disputes on some placements.

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