Livni 47-49, Mofaz 37, Dichter 7, Sheetrit 7 – but could she form a government?
The polls closed in the Kadima leadership primary at 8.30 UK time, with turnout reportedly above 50% and voting extended by 30 minutes. Exit polls released by Channels 1, 2, and 10 in Israel gave the Foreign Minister at least a 10-point lead over Shaul Mofaz. However, the BBC correspondent in Tel Aviv has urged caution as Israel’s exit polls have not got a strong track record.
If these figures are confirmed with the final result in a few hours, the next task for Livni, if she wants to be the first female PM since Golda Meir, is to try to put a new coalition government together. The current administration consists of Kadima, Labor, Shas, and Gil, the Pensioners’ Party. Any problems are likeliest to come from Shas, who have reiterated their stance that they will not be part of any government that puts the status of Jerusalem on the table, as well as calling for higher child allowances.
It has been rumoured that Livni could try to replace Shas if necessary with such unlikely bedfellows as United Torah Judaism and the left-wing Meretz, but it’s extremely uncertain as to whether such a government could be formed, let alone hold together. Relying on tacit support from the Arab parties has also been mentioned, but traditionally this has been a “no-go” for previous Israeli governments.
Livni will have 42 days to try to form a new government, but many observers are already predicting that fresh elections may need to be called for the Knesset in early 2009. Although Livni may well find it harder than Mofaz would have done to rebuild a governing coalition, polls indicated that she gave Kadima a significant seat boost at a general election. The hawkish Mofaz’s defeat, if confirmed, might perhaps also make a mooted Israeli attack on Iran this autumn a little less likely – and indeed Olmert might remain as a caretaker PM well into the New Year.
Austria (28 Sep) background, polls, betting market