Israeli Election Campaign Ends with No Clear Winner in Sight

If the major opinion polls are to be believed, the Labor Party retained a healthy lead over Likud when the 1992 election campaign came to an official close at 7 p.m. local time Monday.

But the political complexion of the next government will be determined not by which party wins the most Knesset seats in Tuesday’s voting but by the size of the rival blocs.

At the end of the campaign the left- and right-wing blocs were in a virtual tie, according to the polls.

The Dahaf pollsters gave Labor 41 Knesset seats, Likud 32, and the leftist Meretz 13. Teleseker gave Labor 42 while Geocartographia predicted a Labor sweep of as many as 43 to 44 Knesset seats, with Likud down to 29 or 30.

The pollsters differed on the outcome between the two major blocs. Dahaf gave the right wing, including Likud plus the-religious parties, a combined total of 61 seats. This would be just enough to form a new coalition government, though not a very stable one.

Teleseker, on the other hand, predicted 61 mandates for the left — Labor, Meretz and the Arab lists. Geocartographia gave the left-wing bloc 62 to 64 seats.

Labor has pledged, however, not to include the Arab parties in a coalition. That means that unless it wins big, it will be unable to form a government, even with substantially more Knesset seats than Likud.

But Labor could utilize the Arabs’ seats to prevent Likud from forming a government with its allies.

The possibility of a deadlock has strengthened speculation that the next government will be a reprise of the Labor-Likud unity regime that governed from 1984 to 1990.

If that were to happen, the party that garners the most Knesset seats will hold the office of prime minister.

ELECTION UPDATES BY PHONE

There are 3,409,015 Israelis eligible to vote on Tuesday. Of that number, 514,748 will be first-time voters.

About 300,000 of the first-timers will be immigrants and the rest are Israelis who have reached the voting age of 18.

There are 25 lists competing to get into the Knesset, but this year it will be especially tough for the new parties.

The threshold has been raised to 1.5 percent of the total vote cast, which means a faction will need over 40,000 votes to qualify. It also means that tens of thousands of votes will be wasted on lists which do not get the minimum.

Election Day is a legal holiday in Israel. Schools and work places will be closed, except for restaurants, large food markets, gasoline stations and other businesses and utilities providing essential services. Public transportation will be fully operative.

As on any holiday in Israel, the administered territories will be sealed off from Israel proper for 24 hours for security reasons.

People who waited until the last minute to obtain the identity cards needed to vote jammed the offices of the Interior Ministry on Monday, setting tempers on edge. Fistfights were reported in Beersheba.

Israeli soldiers serving in Lebanon and in some parts of the West Bank voted Monday to allow time for their sealed ballots to reach the polling places and be counted.

Bezek, the government’s telecommunications corporation, and the army radio will jointly provide election updates from noon Tuesday until noon Wednesday. The news flashes will be updated every half hour for local and overseas callers.

For those in the United States, both AT&T and MCI are participating in the service and are charging regular long-distance rates.

To hear Hebrew broadcasts, call 972-3-65-333. For English broadcasts, call 972-3-65-4444.

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