Wednesday, Feb.25, 2006; 1:18 p.m.
In Israel, Exit Polls dont mean too much
Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest explained the Israeli elections at a viewing party organized by the consulate.
LOS ANGELES-- Although Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party was unanimously declared by all exit polls as the winner of the Israeli elections, the results “must be taken with a grain of salt,” the Consul General of Israel to the Southwest said Tuesday.
“Now it’s only the beginning,” said Jacob Dayan at an election viewing party at the Israeli consulate in West Los Angeles. “Even though Tzipi Livni won with a narrow margin unlike the American system, the winner doesn’t take it all. In Israel, the election systems goes according to parties.”
Dayan said in Israel, coalition governments are the norm and the winner is far from decided even after official results are released. While describing the voting process he said, “although Kadima is predicted to win the highest number of seats, it depends very much who the other parties will recommend to the president.”
Kadima, Likud, Lieberman and Labor are four major parties of the 33 that have contested the elections. To form a government, Dayan explained, parties must form alliances in order to have a simple majority of more than 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset (Israeli parliament).
The exit polls predicted that the ruling party Kadima, led by Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister Tzipi Livni, would win 29-30 seats, the opposing conservative Likud party, headed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed with 27-28 seats, the right-wing Lieberman party would earn 15 and the older center-left Labor party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, would have 13 seats. The remaining seats were won by a variety of smaller “religious or Arab” parties.
Given the narrow gap between the leading parties, Dayan was skeptical of the accuracy of the polls. ‘The polls were wrong before and they might be wrong again. And you see that the difference between Likud and Kadima is very small,” he said.
Based on the exit poll figures, Dayan hypothesized the three most probable coalitions that may form government.
|Tzipi Livni, Kadima Party
“One scenario I can give you: the Labor party supports Kadima,” and with the support of other smaller left-wing parties like Meretz-Yachad, “they will still need the support of Lieberman to form government,” said Dayan.
Another probable coalition is for the Likud to get the support of Lieberman, Labor and other small right-wings parties like Shas and religious parties to give them an easy majority in the parliament, he said.
“So the right wing goes by far and then although Tzipi Livni got the highest number of seats, more parties will recommend (to the president) that Likud will form the coalition,” he said.
The final option put forth by Dayan, was that of a “unity government” formed by the two largest and adversarial parties – Kadima and Likud. Together these two parties are predicted to win 58 of the required 60 seats in parliament. In this case, “Tzipi Livni will be the prime minister for two years and then Benjamin Netanyahu will be the prime minister for the rest of the term,” Dayan said.
Consul for Culture, Media and Public Diplomacy Shahar Azani, reinforced the uncertainty of the exit polls. You may expect Tzipi Livni as prime minister now but you may end up with a religious party, he said.
Although results are due Feb. 18, Dayan expects the official numbers to be published by Thursday, after authorities “validate” the votes. The validation process entails checking for citizens who have voted for more than one party or cast their vote twice.
Given the troubles facing Israel, Dayan said he hopes to see a larger, more stable coalition.
“We have huge challenges ahead of us: the economy of course and the peace with Palestinians, firing from terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But first and foremost the Iranian threat. We need stable government,” he said.
And in order to form a truly stable government, Dayan is hoping for a coalition of the three largest parties.
“If they go together, the Likud and Kadima have 57 – together with labor, they have already seventy, this would be an extremely stable government.” he said. “And on a personal note,” Dayan said, “that’s what I hope we will see.”
Speaking on the peace process, Dayan said all major parties want peace and that they support a “two-state solution.” Azani said that the elections would not have any effects on the country’s relations with the US and the Obama administration.
“Things will remain the same. Israel is a strategic ally of the U.S. The U.S. is obviously a strategic ally of Israel. We share common values. We don’t expect anything to change on that front,“ he said.
Irrespective of the coalition, Azani said the government will be represented by the large parties that “want the same things US and the Obama administration want.”
“As we have seen a few weeks ago, we have one enemy – which is radical and extremism in the middle east. We are all united against this enemy and we stand with the United States to continue garnering support for peace in the nation,” he said.
Los Angeles City Council member Jack Weiss, a few high school students and members of the Los Angeles media corps attended the viewing party, which ran through the afternoon in a packed room at the consulate.
In Israel, voter turnout was around 63 percent, or 3.2 million citizens, approximately the same as the previous election in 2006.