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8:41 PM - Well, it doesn't look like much is going to change from here on in. Clearly Kadima has the most seats, but the right wing parties won a majority. the decision on who gets to form a coalition goes to the country's ceremonial president, Shimon Peres (a Kadima member). However, Peres will have to meet with the leaders of all the parties to get their recommendations on who to make PM. The kingmaker is probably Avigdor Lieberman of third place Yisrael Beiteinu. I think he's going to recommend that Netanyahu be made PM, but he's playing it coy and leaving open the possibility of joining a Kadima coalition. It's anyone's game, but it looks like there is a good chance that, despite Likud's second-place finish, Benjamin Netanyahu will get into the Prime Minister's office by the skin of his teeth. Since things are stable, I think this will be the last post tonight unless anything big changes. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
7:43 PM - 91% of the vote has been counted, and no major changes. Kadima up to 29, Yisrael Beiteinu drops to 15, Meretz and Jewish home both drop to 3. The reason for this is that the Balad Party, an Arab party, got up to 2% of the vote, passing the minimum threshold to win Knesset seats. Hence, Balad now has 3 seats rather than zero, and the Arab parties now total 11 seats. This is also significant because the #3 candidate on Balad's Kneset list, Haneen Zoubi, is fighting to become the first woman to ever represent and Arab party in the Knesset. So, she will get in if these numbers hold. Two other Arab women have sat in the Knesset, but they represented the mainstream Jewish-based parties. While I really dislike the Arab Parties' views, this is a big victory for women's rights in the Arab world. So, congratulations to Ms. Zoubi on her accomplishment.
6:29 PM - I just got back to my house, and 43% of the votes are in. Now, the seats in the Knesset are divided by the percentage of the national votes each party receives. Hence, the numbers of seats that I will list below are based on what the division will be if the current results remain steady. I will also be listing two breakdowns - one listing the seats won by each party, and one listing how many seats each ideological coalition of parties has won (61 needed for a majority). So without further ad0, here are the current seat totals.
28 - Kadima (Tzipi Livni)
27 - Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu)
16 - Yisrael Beiteinu (Avigdor Lieberman)
13 - Labor (Ehud Barak)
11 - Shas (Eli Yishai)
5 - United Torah Judaism (Yaakov Litzman)
4 - Meretz (Haim Oron)
4 - National Union (Yaakov Katz)
4 - Jewish Home (Daniel Hershkovitz)
4 - Hadash (Mohammad Barakeh)
4 - United Arab List-Ta'al (Ibrahim Sarsur)
62 - Right-Wing (Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas, Jewish Home, National Union)
45 - Left-Wing (Kadima, Labor, Meretz)
5 - Swing Voters (United Torah Judaism)
8 - Won't help anyone (Hadash, UAL-Ta'al)
So, Livni wins the party vote and Netanyahu has the bigger coalition - and both think they just got elected Prime Minister. It's more likely that Netanyahu will get the nod, but if Livni canswing one or two other parties, Livni could take it.
5:25 PM - Netanyahu's people aren't pleased with the exit polls showing Livni in the lead. However, they are also reminding everyone that those exit polls do not poll the military - which usually skews to the right. I would remind every one that every Israel has a universal draft and mandatory military service, so the army is a big chunk of votes that could push Likud past Kadima in the seat count. Guess we'll find out when we get results.
4:58 PM - Still waiting for first official results.
4:05 PM - Gotta love politicians - not a single vote has been counted and both Netanyahu and Livni's forces have already declared victory. Actually, both have good reason. Exit polls show Kadima winning the most seats of any party. However, the same pols show that Likud-allied parties on the right will pick up far more total seats than left wing parties that would prefer Kadima. So, if the exit polls are right, Livni will head the largest party, but Netanyahu will have a bigger coalition. Oy vey.
3:43 PM - I finally found live streaming TV coverage in English. If you want the same up-to-the-minute info that I'm getting, you can get it from Arutz Sheva Channel 7.
3:12 PM - Polls have been closed for about an hour and all three of the nation's major TV channels have released their exit polls. All three show Kadima in the lead, followed closely by Likud, with Yisrael Beiteinu barely edging out Labor for a distant third. Now, we all know how unscientific exit polls can be, and these results differ starkly from the last phone polls a week ago (which showed Likud first, Kadima second, and Yisrael Beiteinu far ahead of Labor). That said, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is probably bouncing off the walls right now, while Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor are probably in very bad moods. Either way, there is a lot of counting left to be done. I'll let you know official results as soon as I see them.
12:19 PM - Off topic, but I'm doing a little double dipping today while attending a Club for Growth/Heritage Foundation conference on the stimulus.
10:23 AM - Hadn't thought of this, but it's a good point. The Jerusalem Post is saying that the two ultra-orthodox religious parties - Shas and United Torah Judaism - are freaking out about the high turnout. When you depend on a highly motivated religious minority to win seats - your share of the vote gets diluted when the general public are just as motivated as the ultra-orthodox (who in many cases are ordered by their rabbis to show up and vote for their said rabbi's preferred party).
8:58 A M - Ha'aretz News is reporting unexpectedly high turnout, which probably adds more uncertainty about who will win because all of those people who told pollsters are showing up. We've also had several bits of drama. Protesters in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, have disallowed anti-Arab fascist Baruch Marzel from serving as an election monitor in that town, and the violence forced police to remove his replacement (far-right legislator Aryeh Eldad). And finally, some lady in Jerusalem got busted trying to smuggle fake Yisrael Beiteiu votes into a polling station.
It's almost 1:00 AM Eastern Time, which means that polls have been open in Israel for almost an hour (it's almost 8:00 AM there). If you haven't already figured it out, I am absolutely obsessed with this election, as I think the outcome will drastically affect the situation in the Midldle East. Hence, I will be liveblogging the all day - providing you with quick news updates throughout the process. Polls close at 8:00 PM, which will be 2:00 PM here in Washington, DC - so luckily we Americans don't have to pull an all-nighter to watch the results roll in. One quick question for you as readers: would you all prefer that I enter my updates as additions to the top of this post or as seperate posts? Personally, I think it would be better for the comments section if just keep this post active, but I'd like some reader feedback.
Will Benjamin Netanyahu storm back to power after a decade in the wilderness? Will the fast-closing Tzipi Livni and her Kadima Party pull off the upset? Will dark-horse nationalist Avigdor Lieberman and the Yisrael Beiteinu Party shock the world? Will there be anything left of the Labor Party by Wednesday morning? Only time will tell.
Buckle up - because this one is coming down to a phot0-finish and it's going to be one heck of a ride.