A Look at Today’s Israeli Election Ballot

For Americans who rarely get a look at a multi-party (make that multi-multi-party?) election:

Here is one preview of the outcome. This was the first I’ve heard of a Pirate Party, but it is hardly unique to Israel: Wikipedia tells us that more than 40 countries have a version, including the U.S.


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  1. david s says:

    Imagine parties that actually fight for what they say they fight for.

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  2. David G. says:

    I voted today for the first time in Israel (I moved here with my family 2.5 years ago). There isn’t actually a “ballot” as we’re used to in the US. You go into the voting room and after presenting ID, you get an empty envelope. You take that envelope into the “voting booth” where there are a whole bunch of little pieces of paper. Each piece looks similar to what you showed in the picture (except it’s all in Hebrew and it also says the leader of the party’s name). You take a piece of paper with the party name that you want and stick it in the envelope which you then seal and put in a big box. Counting the votes must be a nightmare.

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  3. Jon says:

    I’m confused. My Hebrew is pretty bad but some of those letters don’t appear to say anything close to the party name. What am I missing?

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    • Novemberlights says:

      From my understanding the political party chooses a letter/letters to be used during elections times. These sometimes try to make an affiliated meaning, like Kadima, for example uses, ‘ken’, meaning ‘yes’, the green party (yerukim) uses ‘rak’, which means ‘only’ but also uses two letters from the Hebrew word yerukim (yud and kof).

      Sometimes a party will use only one letter associated with the party (like the Hebrew letter ‘p’, the first letter in the Priate’s party’ name). Since there have been many parties, Hebrew letters get ‘used up’ as it were, and newer parties have less to choose from.

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    • Richie Sevrinsky says:

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Israel:

      Inside the booth is a tray of slips, one for each party. The slips are printed with the “ballot letters” of the party (between one and three Hebrew or Arabic letters), the full official name of the party, and sometimes a slogan in small print. Each party publicizes their letter prior to election day, with most election posters featuring them. As many political parties in Israel are known by their acronyms, several parties can spell out their name in two or three letters, and thus use their name as their ballot letters (e.g. Meretz and Hetz).

      The voter chooses the relevant slip for their party, puts it in the envelope, seals it, and then places the envelope into the ballot box.

      Parties use the equivalent letters in both official languages, Arabic and Hebrew; for instance Kadima use ?? (Kaph-Nun) in Hebrew and ?? (also Kaph-Nun) in Arabic. Because the Arabic alphabet shares a common source with the Hebrew (the Aramaic alphabet), each Hebrew letter has a perfectly corresponding Arabic one, facilitating this system.

      The system has the advantage of being simple to use for those with limited literacy. This is especially important in Israel where many new immigrants struggle with the language, especially reading and writing, as Hebrew uses a unique alphabet. There are also relatively low literacy rates amongst the Bedouin.

      Each party must register its chosen letters with the Israeli Central Elections Committee, and certain letters are reserved. If a new party wishes to use letters from an older party, it must receive permission from that party. Example of reserved letters are Mem, Het and Lamedh for Likud and Shin and Samekh for Shas.

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  4. jean says:

    We have a Pirat in our city council aaaarrrr 😀

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  5. mfw13 says:

    Israeli politics is fascinating because no party ever wins an outright majority, thus necessitating the creation of coalition governments.

    Not suprisingly, the fact is routinely ignored by members of the western media trying to explain Israeli politics to their readers/viewers. For example, they usually don’t bother to explain that the Israeli governing coalitions usually have the thinnest of majorities (i.e. 61/59 or 62/58), thus making the Israeli Prime Minister a much weaker political position than the US Presidency, simply because he is always at the mercy of the smallest (and usually most radical) members of his coalition.

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  6. Statspotting says:

    In a very positive scenario, this gets the population to the best governance possible. It is unfortunate that it does not work like that always

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  7. Israel Democracy Institute says:


    If you or your readers are interested in the Israeli elections, I encourage you to try the IDI / Jerusalem Post Election Compass at http://en.idi.org.il/tools-and-data/guttman-center-for-surveys/2013-compass/. It will show you which Israeli political parties most closely match your views.

    Also, to learn more about who was elected, what the platforms of the parties are, and what the parties and their leaders are saying now, see our Israeli Elections Primer at http://en.idi.org.il/about-idi/press-releases/israeli-elections-primer/.

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  8. Andreas says:

    In Germany, the Pirate Party has actually already emerged to be a somewhat established force in politics. They have won seats in several regional parliaments lately and they are not unlikely to enter the German parliament in this year’s election. However, internal struggles cost them a lot of credibility, so that they currently linger around 3-4% of the popular vote (they need ?5% to enter parliament).


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