The left-wing NGO Israel Institute for Democracy published on September 3rd a survey reporting that only 48% of Israelis trust the voting-count process, which means that today most Israelis don’t really believe that the outcome of national elections truly reflect the wishes of the public.
Counting votes, which is still done manually, is a meticulous process performed at all 11,000 polling stations. This process, which also requires discerning between honest and dishonest counting mistakes by voting station committee members, is supervised by the Central Election Committee, which is chaired by a Supreme Court justice. The judge currently presiding over the committee is Hanan Melcer, who also oversaw the vote-counting process following the last election in April.
Allegations of miscounts ultimately brought Central Election Committee CEO Orly Adas to tears. Back in April, Adas said that such charges “are completely baseless and tarnish the integrity of our professional team and committee.” Particularly annoyed were New Right party heads Ayelet Shaked and Naphtali Bennett, who lacked less than 1,000 votes to pass the electoral threshold.
On May 1, Amit Halevi, who is 36th on Likud’s list of Knesset candidates, appealed to the District Court in an attempt to order a recounting of votes for the Orthodox party Yahadut HaTorah. He claimed that miscounts in favor of this party had cost Likud it’s 36th mandate, and, consequently, his place in the Knesset. The court requested that Melcer look into the situation and respond within 10 days. He never properly did so, as Halevi’s lawyer, Simcha Rothman, now says.
In an interview last night on Kan TV, Rothman explained that proper vote-counting at just one out of the 150 voting stations now under police investigation could have provided Likud with that one decisive mandate that would have enabled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a majority coalition and avoid a second national election this year.
According to Rothman, it is now beyond doubt that Justice Melcer knew already on May 1st, the final day for votes to be counted, that “the results he published two weeks earlier did not reflect the true election outcome in Israel.” Furthermore, stated Rothman, if there had been proper vote-counting at 30 voting stations already investigated by the police and found to have produced questionable tallies, the Arab party Balad would have failed to pass the electoral threshold. That, too, would have given another mandate to Likud, and thus prevented another national election by enabling Netanyahu to form a stable government.
These cases are still pending, but by now it doesn’t matter. Israel is already heading back to the polls in less than two-weeks time.
Nevertheless, and regardless of what the courts now decide on these cases, the fact that so many voting stations (many of which were in Arab towns) had to be investigated demonstrates why Israelis have little confidence in their electoral process. And that lack of confidence is the worst thing that can happen to a democratic state.
In spite of these debacles, though this comes as little surprise, the authorities have now ruled that Likud is forbidden to independently monitor voting stations around the country. The ruling party’s formal response: “One can’t escape the feeling that the previous election was stolen from us…[and] now they are adding insult to injury by preventing election supervision altogether. …This is an outrage.”