Soldier Votes Unlikely to Alter Election Results


satellite4Today, two days after the general election on Tuesday, all of the soldier votes have been counted. According to reports, there is no indication that the votes will change any of the mandate distribution. The final election results are expected to be published tonight. With the two biggest parties neck-and-neck in their race to prove that they should form the next government, Likud head Binyomin Netanyahu had hoped that the soldiers’ votes could give Likud an extra boost and bring him to a dead heat in terms of mandates against Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni.

But Netanyahu was far from the only politician disappointed that the soldiers’ votes had not increased his party’s mandates.

Had the results been different, Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On, who narrowly missed returning to the Knesset that has been her place of work for the last decade, could have found herself back in.

Habayit Hayehudi was also optimistic earlier that veteran MK Nissan Slomiansky could be returned to the Knesset.

Soldiers, sailors, prisoners, the disabled and government employees working overseas all vote in special polling places, and their ballots, numbering in the tens of thousands, 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 needed to be counted by this 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 yesterday 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.

{Yair Israel}