Likud party and former MK Amichai Chikli appeal his election race disqualification

Rebel Yamina lawmaker pushes back against decision to deny him right to run with Netanyahu’s party, with Supreme Court decision expected next week

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Amichai Chikli at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

The Likud party and its disqualified candidate Amichai Chikli filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking to reinstate his candidacy.

The former lawmaker was barred last week by the Central Elections Committee from running on Likud’s slate. The committee accepted a petition that argued that Chikli had not quit the Knesset in a timely manner after being ousted from his former party, Yamina.

Chikli and Likud have decried his disqualification as a miscarriage of justice, writing in Monday’s petition to the court that “the injustice caused to former MK Chikli screams to the heavens.”

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has said that as prime minister, he would use his discretion to make Chikli a minister if the Supreme Court rejects Likud’s petition to to slot him back into the party’s roster. The court will hear the appeal on Thursday and a decision is expected next week.

In their appeal, Chikli and Likud wrote that “the basic constitutional right to vote and be elected” had been violated by his disqualification — a bedrock principle upon which the Supreme Court weighs a candidate or party’s election race disqualification.

Their main claim is that Chikli and Likud had relied on an agreement supported by the Jerusalem District Court that ruled him eligible to run with the party. However, the court did not have decisive authority over Chikli’s status, and the ultimate decision always rested with the Central Elections Committee.

MK Amichai Chikli arrives at the Jerusalem District Court, for his appeal against his designation as a defector, July 10, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/ Flash90)

The rebel politico pulled an appeal against his ouster from Yamina in July, after the Jerusalem court encouraged a compromise whereby he would resign his Knesset seat in exchange for not being sanctioned and barred from running with another, existing Knesset party in the next elections.

“It is impossible to accept a situation in which a member of the Knesset and a party act according to the recommendation of a legally authorized court sitting in a panel of three judges, and then find themselves in front of a broken trough,” Chikli and Likud wrote in Monday’s appeal.

Party candidate slates were due on September 15, and it is too late for Chikli to run with a different party. Likud had given Chikli a highly coveted reserved spot on its slate, and its also too late for the party to dole out that prize to another potential voter attraction.

Although Chikli only entered the Knesset in 2021 with Yamina, he quickly made a splash by breaking from the party in protest over the big tent government it was forming.

In doing so, Chikli became a symbol of right-wing opposition to the now-outgoing government.

Netanyahu handpicked Chikli to fill one of his discretionary spots on Likud’s list. Sitting in the 14th slot in a party polling in the low 30s, Chikli was set to easily reenter Knesset.

A second Yamina defector, Idit Silman, was also given a realistic reserved spot on Likud’s roster. The Central Elections Committee rejected petitions to disqualify Silman, and her candidacy is still active. The Meretz party and the Movement for Quality Government have until Tuesday to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu poses with candidates he added to the Likud Knesset slate: (from left) Yossi Fuchs, Tsega Melaku, Idit Silman, Moshe Saada, and Amichai Chikli, September 14, 2022. (Courtesy)

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a separate petition from the Movement for Quality Government to force the state comptroller to investigate Likud. Making the same argument it did in its petition against Silman directly, the organization claimed that Likud improperly promised Silman a spot on its list. The court rejected the petition for the second time, saying that movement had yet to exhaust all proper administrative procedures for redress.

Despite never having led a successful policy or legislative effort in the Knesset, Chikli might be fast-tracked to ministerial status. Although Chikli is not religious, he has support among religious Zionist voters and Netanyahu has rolled him out in his religious-community focused campaigns.

While Chikli was the only individual candidate the Central Elections Committee disqualified from running on November 1, it also blocked the Arab nationalist party Balad.

Separately, the left-wing Meretz and center-left Labor parties signed a surplus-vote agreement on Monday, a common practice among politically aligned parties in the run-up to an election.

Under surplus-vote agreements — which need to be finalized with the Central Elections Committee by October 21 — the party that is closest to an additional seat after the election can sweep surplus votes from its agreement partner and use them to complete the necessary numbers.

Both Meretz and Labor have polled as low as the four-seat minimum to enter Knesset and up to six seats.

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