Soldiers, sailors, prisoners, the disabled and government employees working overseas all vote in special polling places, and their ballots are submitted in a double envelope, with the outer envelope including personal information about the voter in order to prevent voter fraud. In addition to 700 polling stations at IDF and Border Police bases, double envelopes from 194 hospital polling stations, 1,319 stations for the disabled, 92 at embassies overseas and 56 in prisons need to be counted by Thursday afternoon.
An estimated 4-5 mandates are up for grabs behind the double envelopes, enough to afford a nail-biting finish for politicians waiting anxiously for the final results in such a close election. Soldiers' ballots are usually generally reflective of the overall voting trends, but with a slight turn to the right in recent years. Zevulun Orlev, who barely returned to the Knesset as Habayit Hayehudi's No. 3 candidate, expressed a hope Wednesday afternoon that the high numbers of "knit yarmulkes" among the soldiers would give his party a much-needed boost that, combined with a surplus vote-sharing agreement with the National Union, would afford them an additional Knesset seat.
At least one study, carried out by the University of Haifa's Dr. Tzvika Barkai, indicates that Orlev's hopes may not be in vain. After polling 800 soldiers before, during and after their military service, he discovered that the closer soldiers were to the time of their enlistment, the more right-wing they tended to vote. In general, he concluded, the popular assumption that soldiers' votes benefit parties from Likud rightward seemed to be accurate. Soldiers also frequently support smaller parties, but even so, the chances of any one of the small parties receiving the push necessary to make it over the minimum threshold are close to zero.
No one really knows where the IDF rank and file will put their vote although it is a given that the Arab parties won’t see any significant change in their mandate resulting from this vote. Some of the religious parties could see a slight change in their mandate given the number of religious soldiers or it could just be enough to put either Likud over the line or increase Kadima’s edge. Ha’aretz suggests the soldiers vote will end in a draw for Kadima-Likud. I am not so sure given the widespread feeling the Kadima coalition pulled the IDF out of Gaza before the job was done. And who knows how the crooks will vote.
In the meantime, the wheeling-dealing continues on with Lieberman suggesting he has made a decision on who he will recommend as Prime Minister to President Shimon Peres. The National Union are playing coy or shy according to this Jerusalem Post article suggesting Likud’s Netanyahu does not necessarily get their recommendation for Prime Minister.
It is still possible for Kadima’s Livni to form a wide coalition to include both Shas and Israel Beiteinu sitting together although the sounds coming out from the Meretz and Labor are suggesting they will sit this Knesset as opposition. I don’t see Shas necessarily having a problem with sitting in this coalition as it has before. Shas price is probably the construction/land development portfolios, no to the dividing of Jerusalem, and no to civil marriage which would put Kadima in a bit of a bind because other than offering Lieberman a high profile portfolio her other great pull would be civil marriage and election reform.
Two days after the Israeli election and the brass ring is still up for grabs. Oh yeah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is suggesting the world ‘isolate’ any Likud coalition. Now that’s a peace partner!