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Final Count of Soldiers’ Vote Gives Tehiya Additional Knesset Seat and Labor Loses One Seat

The ultra-nationalist Tehiya Party has gained one Knesset seat and the Labor Alignment has lost one, according to unofficial but apparently accurate reports from the Knesset tonight, based on a final count of the soldier’s vote.

The gain gives Tehiya five Knesset mandates, making it the largest of the small factions. Labor dropped from 45 to 44 seats, reducing its margin over Likud to only three Knesset votes.

Tehiya’s success will make it easier for Likud to form a coalition government. But political observers maintained that Labor’s chances should not be written off because Likud’s ally gained a single seat. One seat is important but not crucial, they said.

Both of the major parties are strenuously wooing the various religious factions and former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s new Yahad Party. Labor hopes that with their backing, a narrowly based coalition government could be formed and later expanded, possibly into a national unity government embracing Likud but headed by a Labor Prime Minister.

Likud entertains similar ideas. Deputy Premier David Levy and former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon met for two hours with Weizman today, apparently trying to persuade him to accept a top post in a Likud-led government.

In the Labor camp, former President Yitzhak Navon and Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem held long conversations with the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the new religious faction, Shas. Shas won four mandates in its first run for the Knesset and is vital to both Labor and Likud. Informed sources said tonight that neigther Weizman nor Shas have committed themselves to either side.

In light of the final vote tally, Aharon Abu-Hatzeira’s Tami faction looms as a pivotal factor despite its poor showing — dropping from three to one Knesset mandate in Monday’s elections. Without Tami’s single vote, Labor cannot muster the 60 votes necessary to block a Likud-led coalition, even if Weizman should join forces with the Labor Alignment.

By the same token, Likud cannot form a government without the Tami vote, assuming that Weizman refuses to link up with Likud.

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