- Israel held its second election in five months, which came after its parliament dissolved itself and triggered new elections in May when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government.
- With 95% of the votes counted, Netanyahu has won 32 seats, while his main opponent, Benny Gantz has won 33 seats. Neither have gained enough votes to meet the 61-seat majority required to be prime minister.
- Once all of the votes are in, Israel’s president will decide who has the best chance to form a government.
- Many have viewed the election as a referendum on Netanyahu, who is facing indictment over corruption and bribery charges on Oct. 2.
Results are still coming in from Israel’s second election in five months, which many have viewed as a referendum on long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and his Likud Party won the first election in April by a fraction of a percent, beating out Benny Gantz, the leader of the new White and Blue party.
The election, held Tuesday, comes after Netanyahu failed to form a government in the allotted time period back in May. As a result, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve itself and hold new elections.
With 95% of the vote counted, right now it looks like Gantz’s Blue and White party has just a one-seat lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party. Gantz currently holds 33 seats and Netanyahu holds 32.
Now, there are two main options for what happens next.
Option 1: Unity Government
The first option is for the Likud and the Blue and White parties to form what’s called a national unity government. Under that system, the two parties would come up with a power-sharing agreement and pool their seats to form a majority.
But there’s a big catch here: Gantz has said he would not form a unity government with Netanyahu as the leader of the Likud as long as Netanyahu faces indictment.
Netanyahu is currently facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust that stem from three different corruption cases against him. He has denied the charges and is set to have a pre-trial hearing starting in just two weeks on Oct. 2.
As a result, Netanyahu is unlikely to agree to a unity government where he is not the leader. Especially because many believe he would try to get parliament to pass a last-minute immunity deal for him, something many experts say could be his only shot at avoiding possible indictment.
Option 2: Coalition Government
The second option is for Netanyahu and Gantz to try to piece together coalitions with the smaller parties to form a majority.
For that to happen, we have to look to the blocs– the alliances that parties form based on their political and ideological opinions.
There are two main blocs in Israel’s parliament: the center-left bloc, which includes the Blue and White Party, and the right-wing bloc, which includes Likud.
According to the current unofficial election results, both Gantz’s center-left bloc and Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc are expected to get 56 seats each.
Again, not enough seats for either to have a majority.
That leaves the other eight seats, all of which are expected to go to one party– Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular ultranationalist party led by Avigdor Lieberman.
Yisrael Beiteinu’s political leanings would normally place them with the right-wing bloc. In fact, Lieberman even served in Netanyahu’s cabinet in the past. However, Lieberman has been at odds with Netanyahu and is unlikely to throw his weight behind him.
Lieberman refused to join forces with Netanyahu after he won the election back in April unless Netanyahu supported a bill that would require ultra-Orthodox men to participate in Israel’s mandatory military conscription.
But if Netanyahu had supported the bill, he would lose the support of the ultra-Orthodox, which held 16 seats he needed. All of that, of course, ultimately resulted in Netanyahu dissolving the government and holding new elections.
Again, so much power to decide the next prime minister is in Lieberman ’s hands, which is why the Israeli media often refers to him as the “kingmaker.”
Lieberman, for his part, has said he wants a unity government between his party, the Blue and White Party, and the Likud.
Netanyahu’s Hold on Power
Netanyahu remains adamantly opposed to a unity government.
Speaking in an announcement after meeting with members of his right-wing bloc, Netanyahu said the bloc “decided unanimously that we’re going forward together to negotiations that will establish a government led by me.”
“Now there are only two possibilities — a government led by me, or a dangerous government that depends on the Arabs,” he continued. “Now more than ever, with the vast security challenges that lie ahead for the country, a government must not be established that depends on anti-Zionist Arab parties. That’s our commitment to the country and to our voters.”
It should not come as a surprise that Netanyahu will try almost anything to cling to power, especially because the stakes have arguably never been higher for him. That has only been reflected in his efforts and rhetoric leading up to the election.
Last week, Netanyahu announced that he would annex part of the West Bank if re-elected. After that statement, Israel’s Central Election Committee fined the Likud $8,500 for illegal propaganda.
On Thursday, Netanyahu’s Facebook page’s chatbot was shut down for violating hate speech rules, after sending a message that said Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all.”
The Facebook bot was later brought back, only to be suspended again on Tuesday after it violated regulations that prohibit the publishing of voter surveys on Election Day.
The day before the election, Netanyahu gave two radio interviews, breaking a law that bars candidates from promoting themselves from 7 p.m. and on starting the night before the election.
The Likud party also allegedly persuaded an Israeli television station to report that surveillance cameras were being installed at “dozens” of polling places in Arab areas, which experts have said was part of an effort to suppress Arab turnout.
However, if that was the intent, it did not work. The turnout from Israel’s Arab population, which composes about 20% of the whole country, was much higher than the last election.
Once the final votes are in, Israel’s president will choose the candidate he thinks will have the best chance of forming a majority government. Usually, that goes to whoever has the most seats, but not always.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (Times of Israel) (Haaretz)
Apple and Google Remove Navalny Voting App as Russian Elections Kick-Off
The decisions from Apple and Google, which followed weeks of pressure from the Kremlin, mark a continuation in the war between Western tech companies and authoritarian governments.
Voting App Removed From App Stores
Apple and Google removed a tactical voting app designed by allies of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their app stores Friday, bowing to pressure from the Kremlin the same day voting began for the country’s parliamentary elections.
The Smart Voting app aimed to direct opposition voters in each of the country’s 225 districts to select whichever candidate was most likely to defeat competitors from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
Removal of the app comes as part of the Kremlin’s broader crackdown on the work and allies of Navalny, who was given a prison sentence of two and a half years in February for violating parole for a previous conviction widely believed to be politically motivated.
Russian authorities banned the app in June when the government outlawed Navalny’s movement as an extremist organization.
For weeks, the Russian censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, threatened to fine Apple and Google if they did not remove the app, arguing it was illegal and accusing the two of election interference.
People familiar with the matter told reporters that the tech companies complied with the request after Russian officials threatened to prosecute their employees based in the country.
Response and Backlash
Kremlin authorities welcomed the companies’ decision, which they painted as necessary legal compliance.
“They have met the lawful demands,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday. “This application is prohibited in the territory of our country. Both platforms received relevant notices and it seems they have made the decision consistent with the letter and the spirit of the law.”
Navalny’s allies and digital rights activists condemned Google and Apple for kowtowing to the demands of an authoritarian regime.
“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny aide wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.”
Natalia Krapiva, a digital rights attorney with the Internet freedom group Access Now, told reporters that while it was clear Apple and Google “took this decision under pressure,” the tech companies still “owe the Russian people an explanation.”
Friday’s removals, she argued, have little precedent.
“This is really a new phenomenon to go after the app stores,” Krapiva noted.
Broader Crackdowns on Tech Companies
The move marks a continued escalation in the battle between authoritarian governments and American tech companies fighting to keep their services accessible.
In Russia, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have faced throttling and fines in recent weeks for failing to remove calls for protests and other posts expressing dissent that the Kremlin claims are illegal.
In countries like India, Myanmar, and Turkey, authorities have increasingly pressured companies to censor political speech. Last year, Turkey passed a law that gives authorities more power to regulate social media companies.
The Indian government is also currently in a standoff with Twitter over accusations the company has failed to comply with new internet regulations that experts say limit online speech and privacy.
Now, experts worry Google and Apple’s decision to remove Navalny’s app could encourage Russia and other authoritarian regimes to pressure tech companies by threatening to prosecute their employees.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Denmark Moves To Bar Life Prisoners From Starting New Romantic Relationships After Peter Madsen Controversy
While behind bars, the convicted murderer pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl and a 39-year-old Russian artist who he married in 2020.
Denmark’s government proposed a draft law this week aimed at preventing prison inmates serving life sentences from forming new romantic relationships behind bars.
If passed, the proposed bill would specifically limit correspondence and visitation rights during the first 10 years of detention to people the prisoner knew before incarceration. It would also ban prisoners from sharing details about their criminal activities on social media or on podcasts.
Demands for such legislation stemmed from public frustration over Danish inventor Peter Madsen, a 49-year-old who was convicted in 2018 for the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. According to prosecutors, Madsen sexually assaulted Wall while she was on board his submarine for an interview. He then dismembered her body before the submarine sank in what police said might have been an attempt to destroy evidence.
While incarcerated, Madsen reportedly pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl named Cammilla Kürstein. Kürstein has admitted that she fell in love with Madsen after exchanging letters and talking on the phone with him over the course of two years.
However, she became jealous in 2020 when he ultimately married 39-year-old Jenny Curpen, a Russian artist living in self-imposed exile in Finland. Curpen has said her communication and visits with Madsen also began in 2018.
What Comes Next?
While Madsen has earned particular heat for pursuing new romance behind bars, he is far from the only incarcerated person to do so.
“We have seen distasteful examples in recent years of prisoners who have committed vile crimes contacting young people in order to gain their sympathy and attention,” Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup said when speaking of the bill.
“This must obviously be stopped,” he continued, arguing that jail should not serve as “dating centres or media platforms to brag about crimes.”
Denmark’s right-wing opposition in parliament has already signaled support for the bill, which was sent to the committee stage on Wednesday. If approved, it is expected to go into effect in January of next year.
Still, human rights experts said they expect challenges to the law. For example, Elo Rytter, of the University of Copenhagen, told the BT newspaper that it would “interfere with prisoners’ right to a private life.” She also said outlawing public statements might “raise questions about censorship.”
See what others are saying:(The Guardian)(The Washington Post)(BBC)
World Anti-Doping Agency Will Review Cannabis Ban Following Sha’Carri Richardson’s Suspension
Any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until 2023.
Cannabis Ban for Athletes Under Review
The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Tuesday that it will review whether cannabis should stay on its list of prohibited substances.
The move comes three months after the agency’s policies notably prevented U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
In July, Richardson was given a 30 days suspension and stripped of her 100-meter win at the U.S. Olympics Trials when THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was detected in her system. At the time, Richardson admitted that she used marijuana in Oregon, where it is legal, after learning that her biological mother had died.
The runner was ultimately met with an outpouring of support from people who argued that the drug is not a performance enhancer and is legal or decriminalized in multiple U.S. states, as well as in countries around the world.
The anti-doping agency did not specifically mention Richardson in its announcement, but it did say the plan is a response to “requests from a number of stakeholders” in international athletics.
It also said that cannabis will remain banned in 2022, and any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until the following year.