March 29, 2006

Iraeli Election Dissection

Hatched by Dafydd

With the deflation of Kadima just before the election, leaving them with barely two-thirds of the seats they expected to win, the game of Musical Parties begins in earnest... it's time to change partners!

Ehud Olmert, Kadima's chairman, gets first crack at forming a coalition; but he cannot do so entirely with leftist partners. He's going to have to team up either with right-wingers or with a politics-neutral party like the Pensioners party or one of the ultra-orthodox parties... the ones so religious that all you have to do is offer to shut down all the Tel Aviv theaters on Friday nights and they'll vote with you.

Here is the likely breakdown, according to Associated Press. There are 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset:

2006 Knesset Breakdown by Party
Party Name Seats
Kadima (center) 29 - 32
Labor (center-left) 20 - 22
Israeli Beitenu (right) 12 - 14
Likud (right) 11 - 12
Shas (ultra-orthodox) 10 - 12
National Union NRP (right) 8 - 9
Pensioners (neutral) 6 - 8
Arab parties (left) 6 - 7
Torah Judaism (ultra-orthodox) 5 - 6
Meterz (left) 5

As you see, Kadima plus Labor -- the two largest parties -- only gets the coalition to a maximum of 54 seats, possibly as few as 49, but likely around 51 - 52. Since a minimum of 61 is needed for a majority in the Knesset, this pairing would have to pick up an additional 10 seats or so... which is not easy, considering how many of the parties lean right.

In fact, if you add up all the right-wing and ultra-orthodox parties, they control between 46 and 53 seats (the ultra-orthodox typically prefer lining up with Likud, although they'll go with Labor if that's the only path to power). Contrariwise, if you add up all the leftist parties, you only get between 31 and 34 seats. Either could rule alongside the big center party, Kadima -- which was (briefly) Ariel Sharon's party until his stroke; but neither coalition could rule without Kadima.

(There is the mathematical possibility, if Olmert is unable to form a coalition, that the leftist and rightist parties could ally, leaving Kadima out in the cold. There is also the possibility that I am Marie of Romania.)

But a coalition of Kadima, Likud, and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu (literally "Israel, our home") would yield up between 52 and 58 seats, meaning they could rule if they could bring in any one of the right-wing or ultra-orthodox parties, or the Pensioners party. They have more options than trying to put together a center-left coaltion with Kadima, Labor, and Meretz (only 57 seats under the maximum projection), plus an ultra-orthodox party or the Pensioners, who just want big retirement pensions, so either side could lure them easy.

Alas, there is a lot of bad blood between Likud and Kadima: when Sharon left the Likud to form Kadima, he took about two-thirds of Likud's membership. And there is also the problem of the pullout from Gaza and the West Bank... Gaza is a done deal, and not even Likud would advocate going back in; but Likud is much more adamant against giving up "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank) than they were about the Gaza Strip, which is more Egyptian than Israeli.

In reality, Likud is very likely to collapse entirely, ceasing to exist as a political party. Right now, they have 38 seats; to drop to 12 is devastating, and many conservative Israelis don't believe the party will survive. And while I would never say never -- it's Israel, after all -- I would have to predict that Benjamin Netanyahu's career is probably kaput.

So if Likud collapses, the members are going to have to go somewhere; they don't just disappear. They may join up with the biggest right-wing party, Israel Beitenu. I don't know if there is any bad blood between them. IB is a pretty young party; maybe it hasn't been around long enough to make enemies. But it's also almost exclusively a Russian-immigrant party; they would have to change pretty drastically to accept a whole passel of Likudniks.

But if they did merge, that would give the combined party 23 to 26 seats, easily making them the opposition party.

This is going to be very interesting. I believe I heard on the Michael Medved show that it's likely that Kadima will be the weakest plurality party in Israeli history, with only 31 seats or so. (No Israeli political party has ever had an actual majority in the Knesset all by itself, as for example Labour does in the UK parliament.) I will watch the attempt to form a government with great interest.

Remember, the more parties you need to make a ruling coalition, the more likely that one or more will bolt, causing the government to collapse. Don't be surprised if there's another election in just a few months -- another chance for the center-right and right-wing parties to get their act together, accept the pullout, and do much better.

Or alternatively, if I'm totally wrong, and the pullout proves to be a disaster -- well, then it's another chance for the center-right and right-wing parties to say "I told you so" and get everyone to vote for their anti-pullout platform.

Either way, they can hardly fail to improve over this showing!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2006, at the time of 2:31 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Sachi

It turns out Kadima got even less seats, 28 seats. It will be much harder to get coalition.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 29, 2006 2:26 PM

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