What it is the significance of “vote-sharing agreements,” how is it decided which of the parties that signed a vote-sharing agreement gains an additional seat, and what happens if one of the parties does not pass the electoral threshold? The answers to all these questions are provided in this overview.
What is a vote-sharing agreement?
The term “vote-sharing agreement” refers to the divvying-up of “excess” Knesset seats after an election, that is, the seats remaining after the initial round of seat distribution, which is the first stage in translating votes cast at the ballot box into seats in the Knesset.
At the 2021 elections, for example, 112 seats were distributed in the first round, leaving another eight. To decide how these excess seats are divided up, a mathematical equation is used to calculate what is known as the “list indicator.” This method was adopted following the introduction of the Bader-Ofer Law in 1973, one of the goals of which was to strengthen the larger parties. The list indicator is calculated as follows:
The list with the higher indicator is awarded an additional seat. If there are more seats available for distribution, the calculation is repeated, until all 120 seats have been allocated.
The significance of the vote-sharing agreement is that at this stage, two lists that signed an agreement are treated as a single list, and the list indicator is calculated accordingly. That is, the numerator used is the number of votes received by both lists in total, and the denominator is the number of seats they both received + 1. A vote-sharing agreement increases the likelihood that one of the lists that signed the agreement will gain additional seats during the distribution of excess seats. The reason for this is that mathematically speaking, the method for distributing these excess seats favors larger lists. Vote-sharing agreements combine two lists, thereby creating a larger list which will likely have a higher list indicator, giving each list a better chance of winning additional seats.
How is it determined which party gains the additional seat?
If two lists that signed a vote-sharing agreement are eligible for an additional seat, the list indicator is calculated for each of them separately, as described above: The number of votes received by the list divided by the number of seats it already has plus one. The list with the higher indicator is awarded an additional seat. As noted, this method gives an advantage to larger lists. Thus, of the two lists that signed a vote-sharing agreement, the larger list has a greater chance of winning the extra seat.
This is exactly what happened following the 2020 elections: Likud and Yamina, which signed a vote-sharing agreement, received an extra seat, which went to Likud; and Blue and White and Labor-Gesher-Meretz, which also signed an agreement between them, were awarded an additional seat, and Blue and White won it. (The other seat given out during the excess seat distribution process went to Yisrael Beytenu, which did not sign a vote-sharing agreement.)
However, thought the method gives larger parties an advantage, it does not guarantee that they will be awarded the extra seat; in certain circumstances, this seat may in fact go to the smaller party. Thus, in the 2021 elections, when an additional seat was awarded to Labor and Meretz (after these two signed a vote-sharing agreement), it was the smaller Meretz that won the seat; the additional seat given to Yamina and New Hope went to New Hope, the smaller list; and the additional seat jointly allocated to Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu was won by Yisrael Beytenu. At the same time, the additional seat received by Likud and Religious Zionism went to Likud (the bigger party), and the seat awarded to Shas and United Torah Judaism went to the larger Shas. (Another seat was won by the Joint List, which did not sign a vote-sharing agreement.)
Can vote-sharing agreements only be signed between two candidate lists (and not more)?
What happens if one of the parties that signed a vote-sharing agreement does not pass the electoral threshold?
In such a case, the vote-sharing agreement is meaningless, and the list that did pass the threshold is considered not to have signed an agreement at all. The reason for this is that the votes won by the list that did not pass the electoral threshold are not counted when it comes to the distribution of seats.
Which parties have signed vote-sharing agreements between them for the upcoming elections?
The following lists have signed vote-sharing agreements for the elections to the 25th Knesset: Yesh Atid and National Unity; Labor and Meretz; Likud and Religious Zionism; United Torah Judaism and Shas. The Pirate Party and Yesh Kivun (both minor parties unlikely to pass the electoral threshold) have also signed an agreement. The prominent parties not to have signed vote-sharing agreements are Yisrael Beytenu, Jewish Home, Hadash-Ta’al, and Balad. As explained above, this somewhat reduces their chances of winning seats under the method for distribution of excess seats.