Wednesday, March 29, 2006


The Results Are In...

...and it's Kadima... but by no means as much as expected.

(Sorry, the English-language Globes site has less up-to-date information.)

My own informal translation follows:
Victory and Disappointment for Kadima; The Pensioners Astounded [Us]; Shas and Lieberman Are The Big Winners;
The Likud Crumbles

With 99.5% of the votes counted, the results are: Kadima - 28 seats; Labor - 20 seats; Shas - 13; Lieberman - 12; Likud - 11; Pensioners - 7. Netanyahu: "I will not resign". Olmert: "A majority for the disengagement plan".

After an election season full of surprising developments, the citizens of Israel awake this morning to an entirely different political landscape from the familiar one of years past.

From counting 99.5% of the voters' ballots, it seems that the Kadima party has won 28 [Knesset] seats, and on the party's head, Ehud Olmert, the mission will apparently fall to form a new coalition government. The Labor party won 20 seats and is the second-largest...
The graph spells out the numbers, in terms of how many seats in Israel's 120-seat Knesset were won by the various parties. As put by the Israel Foreign Ministry:
Elections to the 17th Knesset were held on March 28, 2006, with voter turnout of 63.2%.

With 99.5 percent of the votes counted, Kadima has won 28 seats, Labor 20, Shas 13, Yisrael Beiteinu 12, Likud 11, National Union-National Religious Party 9, Gil (pensioners) 7, United Torah Judaism 6, Meretz 4, United Arab List/Arab Renewal 4, Hadash 3, and National Democratic Assembly 3.
The members of the 17th Knesset will be sworn in on April 17.
Some valuable background information on Israeli elections in general, with some details about this one in particular, can be found here.

It's an embarrassing statement about Israeli politics that a "Pensioner's Party" exists at all. (A few years ago there was a "Taxi Driver's Party", which seemed interested mainly in revoking the seat-belt law for taxi-drivers. They got nowhere.) It's all the more embarrassing that the Pensioner's Party got 7 seats, or nearly 6% of the vote... which means that they will likely become the 'swing vote' in a coalition government, with tremendous power for making or breaking deals.

With whom will Kadima try to form a coalition government? As of now, nobody really knows for sure. Acting Prime Minister Olmert has given orders, to his negotiating teams, to try to form as broad-based a coalition as possible -- but that could mean anything.

Chances are, Kadima will not invite Likud into the coalition. (Kadima is largely composed of ex-Likud members, looking for a fresh start.) Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our home"), a right-of-center party that's more polarized than Likud, seems even less likely to join Kadima in a coalition... but stranger things have happened.

I could easily see Kadima joining forces with Labor; add in Meretz (a secular left-of-center party) and the Pensioners, and that's still 59 seats, or not quite a majority. I will earnestly hope that they will not push themselves over the top by including one of the special-interest Arab parties. I don't see how any of the religious parties (Shas, NRP, United Torah Judaism) could be serious candidates for the coalition, but there's usually at least one religious party in the government; perhaps they'll work it out.

So now, all eyes are on Olmert. Perhaps he'll pull it together, and find a way to emerge from Ariel Sharon's shadow and lead Israel boldly. I doubt it... but I sure hope he can do it.

By the way, a great many more parties ran in these elections (31 in all!); the list above only includes those that got enough votes to earn at least one seat in the Knesset. Here are some of the parties that were on the ballot, but didn't get enough votes to make it in:

Some older, respected parties, with a history of service in prior governments, also didn't make it in:
...among others.

When Americans complain about the Electoral College system, and how it makes the entry of a new party into American national politics all-but-impossible, I generally respond that that's precisely the point! -- and I use Israeli politics as a counterexample. With such a laundry-list of political parties to choose from, it's next to impossible for a single party to get a majority of the vote... and, in fact, it has never yet happened. (David Ben-Gurion, Israel's George Washington in more ways than one, never got anything close to the unanimous vote that Washington enjoyed. Heck, he never even got a majority of the vote.)

There's also the point that the Electoral College saves the United States from the awful possibility of a nationwide vote recount (imagine Florida in 2000, if we'd had to do that for the entire country!)... but I digress.

UPDATE: Daniel T. warns me that I may be violating copyright by posting a screen-shot of the page. I don't think so, but if this presents a problem, I'll substitute something else, and update this post accordingly.

Daniel T. also regrets that I didn't list Atid Echad (One Future), another party that didn't make the cut... and whose number-three man is a neighbor, here in the Boston area, who goes to the same synagogue that Daniel does. (It's a small world, isn't it?)

UPDATE II: Paul of Powerline makes a strong point:
It's interesting, but not heartening, to compare these fragmented election results, in the context of low voter turnout, to the crystal clear Palestinian election results. A people who knows what it wants has a big advantage over a people who is unclear. And when the former wants destruction of the latter, things become scary.
Indeed they do.

I have yet to see a Hamas response to the election results (unless you count the Katyusha rockets fired into Israel from Gaza on election day). I am certain, however, that Hamas will not change their ways... although they may change their rhetoric. They have been dedicated to the utter destruction of Israel for quite some time, and show no signs of changing that.

Later: I added some text to this entry, colored green so that you can see my changes.


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