Israel Votes 2009: CIC’s David Weinberg Crunches the Numbers

Here’s a look at the latest Israeli election stats, polls and coalition predictions by David Weinberg, Director, CIC Israel Office:


Stats:  There are 5.3 million eligible voters in the upcoming February 10 Israeli national election, and 34 (!) parties in the running.  Only about a dozen of these will make it into the Knesset, since the threshold for one Knesset seat is two percent of the vote (equal to something like 70,000 votes, depending on how many people actually go to the polls).


Traditionally, close to 80 percent of Israelis turn out to the polls on Election Day. But over the past decade that percentage has dropped precipitously, to 68 and 63 percent voter turnout in the past two elections.


Polls:  With 15 days to go until the Israeli vote, the polls consistently show an appreciable Likud lead; anywhere from four to 12 seats ahead of Kadima. A Dahaf poll, conducted for Yediot Ahronot (published last Friday), gave Likud 29 seats, Kadima 25, Labor 17 and Israel Beiteinu 14.


A second poll, conducted by Teleseker for Maariv (also Friday), predicted 28 mandates for Likud, 24 for Kadima and 16 for both Labor and Israel Beiteinu. However, polls published in the right-wing Yisrael Hayom newspaper and broadcast on TV Channels 1 and 2, give the Likud a lead of eight to 12 Knesset seats.


A survey published in Haaretz on Monday (Jan. 26) also gave Likud an 8 seat lead over Kadima, with the Likud expected to bring in 30 and Kadima 22. According to the Haaretz poll, which is the most recent, Labor can expect to win 17 mandates, Israel Beitenu 16, Shas 10, Meretz 5, United Torah Judaism 5, Hadash 4, National Union 3, The Jewish Home 3, United Arab List 3, and Balad 2 seats.


The new Haaretz poll also shows that Israelis clearly prefer Benjamin Netanyahu to be the next Prime Minister over any other candidate. The Likud chairman was picked by 29 percent of those surveyed; 16 percent preferred Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Kadima; and only nine percent supported Defense Minister and Labor party chair Ehud Barak. Netanyahu is also the preferred choice among those polled to serve as Finance Minister and as Foreign Minister as well. Barak was picked as the best candidate to serve as Defense Minister, followed by former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) and Shaul Mofaz (Kadima).


Coalition Mathematics:  Based on the current polls, a centre-left government led by Kadima and Labor (which is the current government constellation) seems unlikely. The numbers just don’t add up to a stable coalition of 60+ MKs.


The centre-left might be able to cobble together a government if Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party, which seems likely to be the big winner of the 2009 election, and Shas, were to join them. But Lieberman is an unreliable partner (he joined, then quit, each of the past two governments); and based on the current numbers Israel’s president is unlikely to ask Kadima to form the next government.


The centre-right bloc is polling a solid majority in Knesset, which means that Netanyahu will more likely get the nod from the president. Netanyahu says that he will seek to form a broad-based, not a right-wing, government; meaning that he will seek to bring Labor into his coalition as the senior partner, with Barak as defense minister. This would appear to closely approximate the coalition government that most Israelis, according to the polls, would prefer.  

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