Election appeals rejected

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Outgoing Prime Minister Shimon Peres took 1,471,566, or 49.51 percent of the vote.

Earlier in the day, a five-justice panel heard three petitions by private individuals asking that blank ballots cast in the elections for prime minister be counted as protest votes.

Some 148,681 ballots cast last week were invalidated by the Central Election Committee. Had they been added to those legally cast, the petitioners argued, neither candidate for prime minister would have won the 50 percent majority required by law, and a second round of voting would be needed.

The justices said a blank ballot was not specifically recognized in the election law as valid.

The attorney general asked the court to throw out the petitions, saying that the elections committee had made clear in advertisements before the elections that blank ballots would be considered spoiled ballots.

He said they were only in the polling booths in order for voters to write in the name of the candidate or party, if those slips were missing.

Meanwhile, Israeli newspapers reported that religious voters who backed Netanyahu lied in exit polls to skew initial results toward Peres.