When the music stops, will it be Likud and the Right?
So, President Peres has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government (he is now a formateur in Dutch / Belgian parlance), despite the fact that Likud finished second at the election â€“ he has 42 days to do so. The immediate post-election posturing and positioning is over, Lieberman has returned from his holiday in Belarus and recommended Bibi for PM, and the real business of government formation can begin, now that the election results are official and the President has consulted the parties.
As things stand, Netanyahu wants a â€œunity governmentâ€ that would include both Kadima and Labor. However, Labor look set to head into opposition, and Livni has indicated that she wonâ€™t serve under Netanyahu â€“ although this being Israel, no may not always mean no, at least as far as forming governments is concerned. So Bibi is in the rather ironic position of being able to comfortably form a government, just not the government that he really wants. Netanyahu and Livni should be meeting today – but will it change anything?
Despite the bad blood between Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu during the campaign (the Shas spiritual leader compared YB leader Lieberman to Satan, and Shas said YB were unsound on pork), Netanyahu should be able to form a government with Likud, YB, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Union, and Jewish Home, for a total of 65 Knesset seats. Note that he could (just) afford to drop one of National Union or Jewish Home to reach the 61 needed, but thereâ€™s the prospect of an unwieldy 5 or even 6-party coalition (only beaten by Italy under Prodi 2006-8 with nine parties?). So not only would Likud-Kadima-YB or Likud-Kadima-Labor look better from an international perspective, but there are also far fewer parties to deal with and work out who gets which ministerial portfolios (although Shas normally seem to get Social Affairs).
In Europe, Italian opposition leader Walter Veltroni resigned as leader of the PD (Partito Democratico) after a heavy defeat in a regional election in Sardinia â€“ can the party hold together after his departure and present a united centre-left front against Berlusconi? For the first time in decades, Italian politics was fairly simple at the 2008 election with two big parties, so any unravelling of this wouldnâ€™t be especially welcome.
Next Sunday sees state elections in Austria in Carinthia and Salzburg. Carinthia sees a tight race between the post-Haider BZÃ– and the SPÃ–, while in Salzburg, Landeshauptfrau Gabi Burgstaller ought to be able to guide the SPÃ– past the Ã–VP, given that her approval ratings recently were a massive 77% – and is she still a possible for Austriaâ€™s first female Chancellor?
Finally, the government in Latvia has gone the way of its Icelandic counterpart and become the second administration to collapse due to the economic downturn. Expect plenty more political turmoil around the world as the economic turmoil continues to unfold. Here in the UK, BNP electoral success, Swanley notwithstanding, has so far been miniscule compared to European parties of the Right in Austria, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands (Wilders’ party has been up to second in the polls) – but will they reap a rich harvest as discontent grows at home with “politics as usual”?