Netanyahu’s right-wing rivals sign vote-sharing deal that could spell trouble for prime minister

Bennett’s Yemina party and Saar’s New Hope signed a surplus votes agreement for the March election.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Two political rivals both vying to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s upcoming election signed a deal Monday to share surplus votes that could give them a critical extra seat in Israel’s parliament, Ynet reported.

Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yemina party and Gideon Saar of the new New Hope party agreed to a deal that will see one of them gain surplus votes under Israel’s proportional representation system.

On March 23, Israelis will vote for a party, which gets seats in proportion to the percentage of vote – so that winning ten percent of the popular vote gives a party 12 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

However, under Israeli law parties can make an agreement so that if one party gets, say 10.5% of the vote that still qualifies them for only 12 seats. That extra half a percentage point (0.5%) of votes would not be counted unless the party decided to share the surplus with another party.

Under the agreement, the surplus votes of the two parties are combined and if they add up to an extra seat in the Knesset, that extra seat goes to the party with the greater number of surplus votes.

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In the March 2020 election 38,250 votes were needed for a seat in the Knesset. The surplus votes agreement effectively prevents the waste of votes a party gets which are short of, or don’t add up to, another mandate.

A similar sharing agreement is expected between opposition leader Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party and the right-leaning Yisrael Beiteinu party, which would leave Netanyahu’s Likud without a right-wing partner to sign a similar agreement.

“We are approaching the election as a new party of hope, and not looking for one alliance or another,” Saar told Ynet when asked about an alliance with Bennett. “We have an excellent team and a clear path. We will have an excellent and quality list [of candidates].”

Bennett for his part did not rule out joining forces with Saar, as both leaders see themselves as replacements to Netanyahu.

“If Saar is willing to accept our principles – which put all controversy aside to focus on economic recovery, unification of the people and controlling the corona [crisis], and if it does make sense – it is clear that it will,” Bennett told Channel 12.