Sa'ar, Bennett Sign Vote-sharing Deal Ahead of Election; Meretz Won't Hold Primaries

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Gideon Sa'ar and Naftali Bennett at the Knesset, 2013.
Gideon Sa'ar and Naftali Bennett at the Knesset, 2013.Credit: Oren Nachshson

The heads of the New Hope and Yamina parties, Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett, respectively, signed on Monday a surplus-votes agreement ahead of Israel's March 23 election, potentially leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud without anyone with whom to sign such an agreement.

During the last five election campaigns, Yamina, Habayit Hayehudi or the Union of Right-Wing Parties had signed surplus-votes agreements with Likud.

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After all the votes are counted, and the votes for parties that didn’t cross the electoral threshold are filtered out, all the remaining valid votes are divided by 120. This gives what’s called the per-seat index, which is how the number of Knesset seats each party gets is determined. That generally leaves each party with a remainder of votes.

If two parties have a surplus-votes agreement, both parties’ surplus votes are combined. If there are enough excess votes to qualify for another seat, the larger party of the pair gets it. Such agreements are generally signed between parties that are ideologically close.

Since the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism usually sign such an agreement with each other, Likud at this stage has no right-wing or religious party with which to sign. In the distant past, Likud signed such a pact with Yisrael Beiteinu, but the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman has soured, and Lieberman is now affiliating with Yesh Atid.

Meretz, meanwhile, decided not to hold primaries before the election, nor will there be a leadership primary, since no one stepped forward to run against incumbent chairman Nitzan Horowitz. This means its faction in the outgoing Knesset will remain atop the list that runs in March.

Fourth place on the slate was reserved for Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a social activist from Nazareth, and the fifth slot will be going to former Meretz MK Esawi Freige. That puts two Arabs among Meretz’s top five candidates, and three Arabs in its first 10, with educator Ali Salalha in the ninth slot.

“Reserving the slot for Ghaida will help us bring back Jewish voters who had supported the Joint List but are now reluctant to support Mansour Abbas [who has become increasingly close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu],” a Meretz source said. The party’s top 10 also has an equal number of men and women.

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