Right-wing parties, left-wing parties ink vote-sharing agreements

Likud signs deal with Yamina as Democratic Camp and Labor team up to ensure ballots don’t go to waste

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Vote-sharing agreements were signed on Wednesday by the Likud and Yamina parties on the right, and the Democratic Camp and Labor parties on the left, each overcoming internal rivalries to help solidify their respective blocs ahead of September’s national election.

Agreements to swap surplus votes allow parties to ensure that extra ballots that don’t add up to another Knesset seat don’t go to waste. Instead, a party is permitted to share these votes through a special agreement with another party. Such agreements are widely used in Israeli elections.

Under law, the combined leftover votes go to the party closest to winning another seat, and are often sufficient to add that seat to its tally, making them potentially decisive in a close race.

Wednesday’s agreements echoed similar deals signed between various representatives of the same parties before April’s election. Then, Likud signed a surplus vote agreement with the Union of Right-Wing Parties, which merged with the New Right earlier this month to form Yamina, and Labor signed with Meretz, which now leads the Democratic Camp electoral union.

MK’s Stav Shaffir and Amir Peretz at the announcement of the Labor party primary results in Tel Aviv on February 11, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud urged Israeli pollsters to henceforth classify Avigdor Liberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party as part of the political left in its polls, citing the vote-surplus sharing agreement signed by Yisrael Beytenu and the centrist Blue and White party a day earlier.

The move appeared to cement ties between Yisrael Beytenu and Benny Gantz’s centrist party, which are expected to attempt to forge a unity government after elections and may try to oust Netanyahu. Both factions were criticized for appearing to cross the aisle, though Liberman described the agreement as nothing more than a “technical matter.”

Likud and Blue and White are neck-and-neck in most polls over the past month, and whichever party emerges the larger could win the first chance to form the next coalition.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman (R) speaks with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid at the Knesset on November 16, 2015. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

The deal between Likud and Yamina comes after recent clashes between the right-wing parties. Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked clashed with Likud last week, criticizing Netanyahu over the temporary closure of the Temple Mount holy site to Jewish visitors and trading barbs with Culture Minister Miri Regev.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu complained that his right-wing rivals were not firm enough in backing him for another term as premier. However, Yamina’s Naftali Bennett said last week that the party would recommend Netanyahu after the elections.

Democratic Camp and Labor have also had some bad blood between them, after former Labor MK Stav Shaffir defected to join the alliance of Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party, which is further on the left. Democratic Camp has criticized Labor for failing to commit to not joining a future Netanyahu government.

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