JERUSALEM (Jul. 17)
The latest independent poll published today gave the Labor Alignment a 14-seat lead over Likud in next Monday’s Knesset elections. It contradicted the results of two polls published last Friday which indicated that the gap between Labor and Likud was rapidly narrowing.
The new poll, conducted by the Modlin Ezrachi Organization has Labor winning 48 Knesset mandates to 34 for Likud, a substantial margin but not enough to ensure the establishment of a Labor-led coalition government.
The poll gave seven seats to the ultra-nationalist rightwing Tehiya party, hardly likely to join a Labor government, and a combined total of six seats to the leftist Shinui and Civil Rights Movement, both natural allies of Labor. The remaining mandates would be scattered among the small parties, religious and secular, according to the poll.
Assuming continuation of Likud’s alliance with Tehiya and the religious parties and several of the small secular parties adhering to Labor, the Alignment would have an extremely difficult time establishing an effective governing coalition. According to some observers, this situation increases the prospects of a Labor-Likud national unity government.
PRIVATE POLLS CONSIDERED SUSPECT
Private polls conducted on behalf of the major parties are considered suspect, the pollsters in each case reflecting a bias toward their respective clients. A recent Labor poll gave the Alignment 53 Knesset seats, sufficient to put together a workable coalition with relative ease. The latest Likud poll, however, showed the gap between the two parties down to five mandates.
All of the polls published to date were taken before the latest inflation figures were released on Sunday which showed a 13.3 percent increase in the June cost-of-living index. It is the highest rise on record for that month which is normally a time of low inflation.
Labor promptly seized on this as further evidence that the government’s economic policies are leading the country to ruin. Likud countered by putting Premier Yitzhak Shamir on television last night to argue that reckless wage demands by trade unionists were responsible for the inflationary spiral.
ISSUE OF INFLATION
According to Shamir, his government had just launched an economic program to curb inflation when the Knesset voted early elections. Histadrut, he said, refused to enter into a “social contract” and the government therefore was forced to postpone its program until after the elections.
Shamir cited statistics showing that inflation is a worldwide problem that compounds the problems peculiar to Israel and accounts for the extremely high inflation rate of the past year. Likud’s newspaper advertisements and campaign speeches warn the voters that if Labor takes power it will attack inflation by creating a recession and widespread unemployment.
But independent economic experts have agreed that whichever party wins next Monday, the new government will have to initiate very painful measures, including the dreaded phenomenon of unemployment, if Israel is to grapple with its massive economic problems.