Mapai Loses Seats in Knesset Election; Remains Dominant Party
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Mapai Loses Seats in Knesset Election; Remains Dominant Party

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Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai Party lost an estimated six seats in yesterday’s national elections to the fifth Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, according to incomplete returns made public this morning.

The figures are based on tabulation of 95 percent of the total vote in the country. The untabulated five percent of the votes, still being tallied, is from servicemen and women in the Israel army installations and from some of the Arab districts. These tallies are not expected to be completed for several days, after which the final results will be announced.

Mapai polled an estimated 34,1 percent of the vote to hold 41 seats against 47 in the last Parliament. In the previous national elections in 1959, Mapai polled 38.2 percent of the total vote. The total number of seats in the Knesset is 120.

The Liberal Party, contesting an election for the first time as a merger of the General Zionist and Progressive parties, won 13.6 percent of the vote and will have 16 or 17 seats in the new Knesset. The two parties had 14 seats in the old chamber.

The Herut Party, with 13.4 percent of the vote, stood to hold its 17 seats or face the loss of one. The National Religious Party, with 9.9 percent of the vote, retained its 12 seats. The Mapam Party increased its vote fractionally to 7.7 percent and was sure of holding its nine seats and, possibly, of gaining one.

The Achdut Avodah Party likewise scored a fractional increase in its share of the vote, obtaining 6.4 percent to hold its seven seats. The Agudah and Poalei Agudah Parties increased their share of the vote to 5.8 percent and will have seven seats in the new Knesset as against six in the last Knesset.

The Communists scored heavily in the Arab areas. They increased their share of the vote from 2.8 percent to 4.3 percent, increasing the number of their seats from three to five. Returns early today failed to indicate the fate of the other three seats formerly held by these parties.


The election results provided no great surprises. Mapai, despite an intensive campaign effort, had been expected to lose some seats. The Liberals had hoped to win at least 20 seats and both the right wing Herut and the leftwing Mapam and Achdut Avodah Parties had expected to capitalize on dissatisfaction and unrest over Mapai economic policies and the Lavon Affair.

The election leaves Premier Ben-Gurion just where he was before the elections, with no clear and decisive mandate to form a new government and obliged to find new bases for collaboration in a coalition government with the partners with whom he fell out in the previous regime. The Government will, in all likelihood have to be composed of Mapai, the new Liberal Party, the religious group and left-wing labor groups.

Though the tallies as they stand now are not complete, they are close enough to the expected final tabulations to indicate that both the Mapai Party and the new Liberal Party did not quite accomplish what they had hoped to achieve. Mapai can perhaps have 43 seats in the next Knesset, after the final election results are announced, but not the 47 seats it held in the last House.

The Liberals gained about 3 percent of the vote above the percentages totaled in the last Knesset by the new group’s two components, the Progressives and the General Zionists. But in Knesset seats, they will have gained no more than two or three members in the new Parliament, compared with the old, where the combined seats held by the Progressives and the General Zionists numbered 14. The Liberals, despite indications that the new grouping was not taking the country by storm, had hoped to gain at least 20 seats. Mapam, too, is probably disappointed, since it looks as if Mapam will have no more than 10 seats, at best only one seat more than in the last Knesset. The left-wing Achdut Avodah is certainly disappointed. For months, it had beat the drums on the Lavon Affair, and had hoped to cash in on that issue in the campaign. Instead, it will have no more than the seven seats it had in the old Parliament.

Only Herut seems satisfied, although in its ranks too there may be some disappointment. Herut has simply held its own, and may even lose one seat of the 17 it had in the last Knesset when the final count is in. The Communists gained, rather surprisingly, increasing their total ballots from about 2.8 percent in the last elections to more than 4 percent this year. That increase came largely from Arab voters, especially in Nazareth.


Mapai had lost much less in rural areas than some political experts had expected. The Liberals gained most in the large cities. The largest shifts to the Liberals was shown in the balloting in Tel Aviv.

Pending the final tabulations, which are not expected to alter the situation materially, it seems that the key to major decisions in the next Knesset will be in the hands of the six major parties. Sixty percent of the seats will be controlled by Mapai, the National Religious Party, Mapam and Achdut Avodah–all of which were represented in the last Cabinet.

The figures indicate that Mapai will, once more, have to form a coalition Government. Though it could obtain a comfortable majority by teaming up with the Liberals and the religious parties, there is a greater possibility that the old coalition of labor parties with the National Religious group will probably be revived to form the next Government.

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