Parliamentary Chamber: Knesset


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Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  29 May 1996

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in Parliament following the premature dissolution of this body. General elections had previously been held in June 1992.

Background and outcome of elections:

  The election date was set in February 1996 by Prime Minister Shimon Peres (Labour Party), who had assumed leadership of the Government after Mr. Itzhak Rabin was assassinated the previous November. The polling - to be held some five months earlier than expected - was the first in the country with separate, direct voting for Prime Minister and members of the Knesset.

During the campaign, issues bearing on the positive economic situation in the country were overshadowed by debate on peace and security in the Middle East region and relations with Israel's neighbours. Prime Minister Peres pointed to his and Mr. Rabin's prominent roles as architects of the Arab-Israeli peace process, under which Israel had signed a peace treaty with Jordan and negotiated an interim accord with Palestinians, represented by Mr. Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The leader of the main opposition Likud Party, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, countered by campaigning on the slogan "making a secure peace" and vowed to redirect Israel on a security-oriented path in relations with its Arab neighbours. The leaders - who held a televised debate on 26 May - moreover differed on the issues of the establishment of a Palestinian state, Jewish settlements and Israeli troops in Palestinian territories, the status of Jerusalem and relations with Syria, with Mr. Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud platform taking a harder, nationalist position on each question. Despite this rhetoric, the campaign was generally characterised as lacklustre by commentators. Altogether 20 party lists and over 1,100 candidates were in contention for the 120 Knesset seats.

On a polling day marked by an 80% turnout, both Labour and the Likud bloc (including the ultra-nationalist Tsomet and Gesher groups) lost seats to smaller, special-interest and especially religious parties, whose influence was thus expected to expand. Labour nevertheless remained the largest single party in the Knesset, but Mr. Peres was edged out in the race for Premier by 1% of the popular vote. Analysts saw these results as reflecting the electorate's concern for personal security over the programme for regional peace of the outgoing Government, backed by the international community. Among the gainers in the centrist camp was the new "Israel for Immigration" group led by Mr. Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident.

Given the overall electoral outcome, Likud concluded agreements in June with five other groups, giving the resulting coalition a total of 66 seats. It received the majority support of the Knesset on 18 June. With the new Government in place, Mr. Netanyahu formally became Prime Minister.

Round no 1 (29 May 1996): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 3,933,250
Voters 3,119,832 (79.31%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 67,702
Valid votes 3,052,130

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Labour Party 117 818,741 26.8
Likud-Tsomet-Gesher bloc 119 767,401 25.1
Shas 118 259,796 8.5
National Religious Party (NRP) 120 240,271 7.8
Meretz 120 226,275 7.4
IsraŽl for Immigration 19 174,995 5.7
Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 120 129,455 4.2
United Torah Judaism 116 98,657 3.2
The Third Way 52 96,474 3.1
Democratic Arab Party 117 89,514 2.9
Moledet 97 72,002 2.3

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
Labour Party 34 -10
Likud-Tsomet-Gesher bloc 32 -8
Shas 10 +4
National Religious Party (NRP) 9 +3
Meretz 9 -3
IsraŽl for Immigration 7 +7
Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 5 +2
United Torah Judaism 4 =
The Third Way 4 +4
Democratic Arab Party 4 +2
Moledet 2 -1

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 111
Women: 9

Distribution of seats according to age:  
31-40 years 19
41-50 years 39
51-60 years 49
61-70 years 12
Over 70 years 1

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Copyright © 1996 Inter-Parliamentary Union