JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s final election results remained the same following the inclusion of votes from soldiers and overseas diplomats.
Israel’s Central Elections Committee made the announcement Thursday night after the addition of the double-sealed ballots. Some believed the Likud Party would pick up an extra seat from the soldiers’ votes. Many soldiers used blank ballots to write in the name of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Kadima Party remains the leader with 28 seats, edging Likud with 27. Yisrael Beiteinu became the third-largest party with 15 seats, followed by Labor with 13 and Shas with 11. Each seat is the equivalent of about 28,000 votes.
Both Kadima and Likud claimed victory Thursday night.
"With the completion of the vote count, Kadima won and it is the largest party," a party statement read. "[Likud leader Benjamin] Netanyahu must accede to Tzipi Livni’s call and join a centrist national unity government headed by her."
The right-wing bloc garnered more seats than the left wing, leading a Likud statement to say: "Kadima’s statement is pathetic and shows that it continues to spin some imagined reality instead of recognizing a political reality in accordance with the voter’s verdict. An absolute majority of Israelis wants Netanyahu as prime minister and clearly rejected Kadima’s way, which has failed."
President Shimon Peres will invite one of the party heads, Livni or Netanyahu, to form a new government. Peres is required to assign the task to the candidate most likely to successfully form a coalition.