Israeli 2015 Elections 101
Israeli 2015 Elections 101
On March 17th 2015 Israelis will cast their vote for the 20th Knesset-Parliament. For many people who are used to a two or three party system, the multiplicity of Israel political parties can be very confusing. Here at World of Judaica we are happy to present a brief guide on how the Israel electoral system works and who the main parties are. The Israeli elections are always interesting and now you can join the conversation!

The Israeli Electoral System
The Israeli electoral system is based on proportional representation. This means that instead of voting for a specific candidate, Israelis vote for a party, or a list. The number of seats that each party receives in the Knesset is proportional to the percentage of votes it receives.

Seats are distributed among the parties by dividing the number of valid votes for the parties that pass the 3.25% qualifying threshold by 120, the number of seats in the Knesset. This determines how many votes entitle a party or list to one seat.
 
Each party places its members in a particular order on their list and candidates win a seat based on their placement on the list. For example, if a party receives sufficient votes for 10 seats, the first 10 candidates on its list will become Knesset members.
 
After an election, Israel’s president consults with party leaders and selects the Knesset member most likely to form a viable coalition government of 61 or more seats. This member is often, but not required to be, the leader of the party that has won the most seats. The selected member then has 42 days to negotiate with other parties and form a coalition, which is presented to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If they succeed, that member becomes the next prime minister.
 
The Parties and Their Leaders:
Here are the main parties with the estimated number of seats they are expected to receive based on a JPost poll from February 27 (Although a lot can change in two weeks!):

Right:
39 seats
Likud-Benjamin Netanyahu [23]
HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home)-Naftali Bennet [11]
Israel Beytenu (Israel Our Home)-Avigdor Lieberman [5]

Center: 20 seats
Kulanu (All of Us)-Moshe Kahlon [8]
Yesh Atid (There is a Future)-Yair Lapid [12]

Left: 30 seats
Zionist Union-Avoda and Hatnuah- Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni [25]
Meretz-Zehava Gal-On [5]

Arab Parties: 13 seats
Joint Arab List- Ayman Odeh [13]

Ultra-Orthodox: 18 seats
Shas (Sephardic Guards)-Aryeh Deri [7]
United Torah Judaism-Yaakov Litzman [7]
Yachad-Ha'am Itanu (Together-The People Are with Us)-Eli Yishai [4]
 
In addition to the parties listed above there are 15 additional parties registered for the Knesset, although it is not likely that they will pass the 3.25% threshold. One might ask-why are there so many parties? The justification is that in a period in which changes are still taking place in the population make-up as a result of immigration, it is important to enable maximal representation for various groups and opinions.
 
Elections in the Past
In 2009 Kadima, led by Tzipi Livny, won the most seats in the parliament but President Shimon Peres announced that Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu would be given the task of forming a government. Peres's motivation in nominating Netanyahu was likely based upon the judgment that Netanyahu was in a better position numerically to put together a coalition. Likud's potential partners on the political right won more seats than the parties of the centre-left, who would more likely support Kadima.

The 1996 elections resulted in a surprise victory for Netanyahu by a margin of 29,457 votes, less than 1% of the total number of votes cast. This came after the initial exit polls had predicted a Peres win, thus coining the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu".

So who do you think Israel will wake up to on March 18th?