JERUSALEM (Jul. 22)
About 2.6 million Israelis are eligible to vote in tomorrow’s Knesseet elections, not counting soldiers in army camps and in Lebanon whose exact number is classified in formation.
According to election-eve polls, the Labor Alignment still leads Likud. The margin varies from poll to poll. But the widest gap forecast is not sufficient to give Labor a governing majority and political pundits predict that if Labor is asked to form the next government, the construction of a viable coalition will be a long, difficult and, possibley, impossible task.
In that event, the establishment of a Labor-Likud national unity government seems as likely a scenario as any, according to political experts. Likud is amenable. But the Laborites, eager to return to power after seven years in the opposition, are loathe at this juncture to join forces with their bitter rivals.
LINEUP OF POSSIBLE MANDATES
Three last-minute polls were published over the weekend. The Dehaf poll, conducted by Dr. Mina Zemach, appeared in Yediot Achronot. It gave Labor 49 Knesset mandates to 37 for Likud.
The far rightwing Tehiya Party was given 6-7 Knesset seats; the leftist Shinui and Civil Rights Movement (CRM) a combined total of five; former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s Yahad Party 3-4; the pro-Moscow Rakah Communists and the new Progressive List for Peace, a coalition of Israeli Arab nationalists and Jewish leftists, a combined total of five; the National Religious Party 4-5; the Aguda Israel Party and the new Sephardic religious faction, Shas, a combined total of 4-5; the breakaway religious faction Morasha, 1-2; and former Finance Minister Yigael Hurwitz’s new faction, 1-2.
The Hanoch Smith poll, published in Davar and The Jerusalem Post, predicted a 48-41 seat victory for Labor over Likud. The Modiin Ezrachi poll, published in Maariv, forecast a 46-40 outcome in favor of Labor.
All of the polls predicted about the same results for the minor parties. Most of the 26 parties and independent factions running for election will not, according to the polls, obtain the one percent of the vote necessary to enter the Knesset. But there could be surprises.
Pollsters say the elections will mark a resurgence of the small parties. They also report a marked preference among military age youth for the rightwing parties — Likud, Tehiya and even Rabbi Meir Kahane’s extremist Kach Party which campaigned on a platform to oust all Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories.
Labor and Likud both declined to issue their own last minute polls today. A Likud spokesman said it would be a waste of time and money, considering the disparity in the results of the various commercial polls to date. Laborites leaked information to the effect that Labor’s advantage is holding. But the party leaders decided not to publish the latest findings so as not to induce complacency. Meanwhile, politicial analysts are devising various post-election scenarios. Labor’s first hurdle, they say, is to eliminate the posibility of Likud forming the next government. This can be assured only if Labor, plus its “natural” allies, Shinui and the CRM, plus the Rakah Communists and the Progrssive List for Peace, win a combined total of 60 Knesset seats — one half of the parliament.
The next hurdle would be for Labor to form a coalition. The small parties of the religious bloc and Yahad, may align themselves with Labor as the only way to participate in the next government. Labor, of course, would never admit the anti-Zionist Rakah to any coalition nor could it take in the Progressive List for Peace which advocates a Palestinian state.
Labor could, in a pinch, arrange a deal with Rakah to abstain in a Knesset vote of confidence. Assuming that the Communist faction won four seats, Labor would need only 59 mandates to scrape through its first vote of confidence in which only 116 Knesset members would participate.
Labor would attempt this, the analysts say, in the hope that if it can put together a coalition and begin the task of governing, it might soon broaden its mandate with defectors from opposition parties, notably the Liberal Party wing of Likud.
However, it is arithmetically possible that while Labor and its allies can block Likud, it will be impossible for Labor to set up a government. In that case, the alternatives would be new elections — which nobody wants –or a Labor-Likud national unity regime.
The polls will close at 10 p.m. local time tomorrow night and unofficial results will be announced moments later by pollster Hanoch Smith. He has been commissioned by Israel Television — for the third consecutive election — to conduct “exit polls”, meaning that as voters emerge from the booths they will be asked which party they voted for. Smith has selected 53 polling places for the survey, 35 in cities and towns and 18 in rural areas.
Israel Television will offer a second “exit poll” at midnight, local time, based on surveys at 200 polling places all over the country. An initial picture may begin to emerge by then. However, the count of the soldiers’ vote is not expected to be completed until late Tuesday. The final election tally will be submitted to the Central Election Committee only on Wednesday.