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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Exit polls wrong again?

The news stories had been written, the champagne was on ice and then tourism minister Uzi Baram had just finished thanking the Arab voters for putting his candidate over the top when the candidate's world came crashing to an end: Despite exit polls that had him winning by a wide margin over the challenger, Shimon Peres suddenly found that the actual vote count was giving the victory to his bitter rival: Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The polls had lied - or the people had lied to the pollsters. Is it happening again tonight?

Despite a series of exit polls showing that foreign minister 'Tzipora' Livni had won the Kadima party primary by a margin of more than 10% of the 37,000 or so votes cast (yes, that's what 50% of 74,000 registered voters means), Livni is hanging on for dear life on Thursday morning with the smallest of leads.
As of 3:50 a.m., the number of votes counted was unchanged for over an hour, amidst accusations from the Mofaz camp that irregularities occurred in some polling stations.

The real vote count, however, found Livni victorious by only 6.3 percent, when thousands of votes were still to be counted. Livni's headquarters tentatively announced she would win by two percent only, a much lower difference than the 8-10% predicted by polls.

At the headquarters of Mofaz his activists claimed that according to real results counted so far, he was trailing Livni by just little over 100 votes.
Given those facts, it's not surprising that Livni has not yet claimed victory and that Mofaz has not conceded. But even if Livni wins the primary - whether or not a runoff is required - her victory may be a Pyrrhic one.
Labor and Shas officials said they doubted Livni would succeed in forming a government. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai reiterated his threat that Shas would not join a new coalition unless child allotments were raised.

"Let's go to elections and let the people choose their prime minister," said Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, the cabinet member closest to Labor Chairman Ehud Barak. "It cannot be that so few people will decide who the prime minister of Israel will be. I welcome Livni's victory but Labor will prefer elections."

Meretz Chairman Haim Oron hinted that his party could join a Livni government if she gave the public clear answers on key issues.

Likud officials said there was no chance it would join.
Labor and Shas are the two main partners in current Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert's coalition. If they don't join a coalition with Livni at its head, there would seem to be little choice but for the country to go to elections. But Caroline Glick reported on Tuesday that Livni has another plan:
Livni has told sympathetic reporters of her intention to form a far-left governing coalition with the non-Zionist Meretz party that will be supported from the outside by the anti-Zionist Arab parties. But she doesn't want the general public to realize how radical she is. So she lies.
That sounds a bit far-fetched. In Israel's parliamentary system, once Olmert resigns (assuming that he does), President Shimon Peres would have to call on the party he believes to be most capable of forming a government. Will Peres call on Livni if this is her plan? Probably. But Livni's math doesn't add up if both Labor and Shas are out of the coalition. Kadima has 29 seats and the pensioners (who will stay in the coalition since all polls indicate they will disappear from the map if there is a new election) are another seven. Meretz has only five seats and the Arab parties among them have ten. Without either Labor or Shas (and preferably both), I don't believe Livni can get a government through the initial confidence vote in the Knesset.

If Livni loses and Mofaz becomes Prime Minister, we may be less likely to have new elections. Mofaz has all but said he will pay off Shas to stay in the coalition. And Labor leader Ehud Barak has nowhere near the animosity for Mofaz that he has for Livni.

So is it a new government or new elections? We should know soon.


At 7:35 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - according to Arutz Sheva, the truth is the exit polls are wrong. Livni's margin of victory over Mofaz is actually 431 votes. And those come from the Bedouin city of Rahat. Mofaz wants those voided. If they are thrown out, Livni wins by a single vote and there will probably have to be a runoff round since the winner did not get well over 40% required by the party rules. This is far from over. Israel's MSM got the projections wrong before a single vote had even been counted. No surprise, given they were in the tank for Livni.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger YMedad said...

As of now, this is the situation:

Livni beat Mofaz in Wednesday's Kadima primary by a margin of 431 votes, a difference of 1.1 percent. Livni garnered 43.1 percent to Mofaz's 42 percent. Voter turnout in the primary stood at 55 percent.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ymedad, I had a low opinion of Kadima voters but it turns out they made freiers of the Israeli MSM that portrayed Livni as a shoo-in. Given that miniscule differences, odds are good there will be a run-off election. The proclamation that Livni is Kadima's next leader and Israel's PM has turned out to be a tad premature!


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