The results, which remained unchanged, were announced during a festive press conference in Jerusalem.
The double-envelope votes – which prevent dual voting in special and regular ballot boxes – encompass a wide variety of citizens. The system is employed in 700 IDF polling stations, 1,319 ballot boxes for the handicapped, 194 hospital ballots, 92 embassy ballots, and 56 ballot boxes located in prisons; out of a grand total of 9,263 ballot boxes in Israel.
According to the initial vote count, which took place 12 hours after the termination of the elections and included 99.7% of all votes cast, Kadima won 28 mandates, the Likud emerged with 27, Yisrael Beiteinu got 15, and Labor won a paltry 13 mandates.
Shas retained its power with 11 mandates, while United Torah Judaism won five; Hadash, United Arab List-Ta'al and the National Union parties each got four mandates; Habayit Hayehudi, Balad, and Meretz each emerged with three mandates.
The heads of the two leading parties, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, each rushed to declare their victory and immediately initiated attempts to harvest a coalition.
Under the Israeli electoral system the president will now have to task one of the party heads with forming the new government.
Though the president is officially supposed to assign the winning candidate with the task, he is also bound to assign it to the candidate most likely to successfully form a coalition. Given the tight results noted in Tuesday's election, this time the one tasked with the mission may not be de facto winner.
The Kadima Party stated in response to the final election results that "tonight must end the campaign run by Bibi (Netanyahu) and Likud lobbyists, to hijack the opinions and government of Israel."
The statement added, "Kadima has won and is the largest party. Netanyahu needs to heed Livni's call and join a national unity government led by her."
The Likud Party called Kadima's statement"pathetic" and said it was an attempt to put a "spin" on the public's will.
"The vast majority of Israelis want Netanyahu as prime minister, and clearly objects to Kadima's failing path," the party stated.