Nov 7, 2012

Owning The Alphabet

Here is something you probably did not know about political parties and their letters to be used on the ballots. The letters are selected carefully by the party to either have symbolic meaning, or some direct association with the party.

Some examples (in no particular order):

  • שס is the ticket letters for SHAS
  • ג is the ticket letters for UTJ
  • אמת is the ticket letters for Labor
  • מחל is the ticket letters for Likud
  • זך is the ticket letters for Pensioners 
  • ב is the ticket letters for Bayit Yehudi (Mafdal)
  • מרץ is the ticket letters for Meretz
  • ט is the ticket letters for Ichud Leumi
  • ל is the ticket letters for Yisrael Beiteinu

some of these combinations are letters that make one think of the party name, like Shas, Meretz, etc. Others are acronyms for multiple parties that merged together or other words that remind one of the party, and others have other types of meanings.

A strange law, one that I find strange at least, is that only one party can own and use any given letter from the alphabet on their election slip. If a different party wants to use a letter, not even a combination but even just one letter out of a combination, they have to get permission to do so from the party that owns it. For example, if a new party would want to use the letter א on its ticket somehow, they'd have to get permission form the Labor party. To use ב they would have to get permission from the Mafdal people. etc.

It is very strange, to me at least, that a party owns the letter - not just the combination. I get that Shas owns the combination שס, but it doesn't make sense that they own each individual letter. Especially with all the new parties registering to run in each election, pretty much all the letters have been taken already and are owned. So, a new party wanting to register a new election slip will almost definitely have to ask permission from a different party, or even from more than one, to have access to the chosen letters.

Usually such requests are granted, unless there is a direct conflict. The conflict could be two parties that are in direct contrast to each other, fighting over the same voters, so one wouldn't want to help the other. Or it might be names or combinations of letters on slips that are considered too similar and easily confused. Or for any other reason such as the head of the party is in a bad mood or whatever.

A good example of this is the new Yesh Atid party trying to come up with appropriate letters for its ballot slip. they wanted to go for יש which would be appropriate as its the first of the two words of their name. Makes it easy to identify in the ballot box. Unfortunately for them, the ש is already owned by Shas. This party led by Yair Lapid has been in direct conflict with Shas. When Lapid made the request of Eli Yishai to use the letter ש on the Yesh Atid ballot, Yishai was understandably not forthcoming. After being attacked regularly by Lapid, Yishai was not about to help Lapid by allowing him use of one of Shas's letters... it took two weeks to respond, but Shas said no. Now Yesh Atid has to come up with a different set of letters. (source: NRG)

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  1. Who own the Yud? Don't we have more parties than letters?

  2. Let me add a few more pieces to the puzzle.
    The origin of the letter was that it would be easier for the illiterate people or new olim to more easily match the proper ballot withe their choice.

    The Shinui party still exists in various municipalities around the country. Yair has actually had at least one slip of the tongue when he told people to vote recently for Shinui.

    When Shinui rose to power in those famed elections, they somehow managed to get permission for the Shin, but after they came apart and were not re-elected, their shin was released back.

    The letter system is also used in municipal elections. If you run for city council and want to use bet, you need to get permission from Mafdal. If you want to use the letter Shin, you have to get written permission from Shas. Yud is actually still owned by one of these parties that are/were in the Ichud Leumi: Tekuma or Moledet.

  3. interesting. thanks for that addition, Josh.


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