JERUSALEM (Bloomberg) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party remains best positioned to form a government after January elections, according to two new polls.
Likud would win 25 seats, making it the biggest party in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, according to a survey published Thursday in the Globes financial daily. The Globes poll and another survey published in the Haaretz daily showed that Likud and other parties in the current ruling coalition would gain enough seats in the 120-seat Knesset to form a new government.
Netanyahu announced this month he will hold early elections on Jan. 22 after his coalition failed to agree on cuts to the 2013 budget. The government’s term of office expires a year from now.
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said on Oct. 13 that the decision to move elections forward in response to the budget impasse was “a good move” that will benefit the economy. Polling takes place as inflation is accelerating, the government raises taxes and oil prices increase. Tensions with Iran are also growing in the midst of concern about the purpose of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
According to the Haaretz poll, the formation of a new party including former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, and Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid would garner 25 seats, one more than Likud. Even so, polls show that the alliance wouldn’t be able to command a Knesset majority, unlike Netanyahu.
Olmert, who resigned from office in 2009 in the face of multiple corruption accusations, was cleared of most charges last month, opening the way for his return to politics. Olmert and Livni, who earlier this year lost the chairmanship of the Kadima party to Shaul Mofaz, met last night to discuss a possible joint return to politics, Channel Two television reported.
“While other parties are trying to make moves to strengthen their positions, the end result is just a reshuffling of seats in the center-left bloc, while the center-right bloc headed by Netanyahu retains a majority,” said Tamir Sheafer, professor of political communications at the Hebrew University. “At this stage it looks like only some kind of external event could prevent Likud from forming the next government.”
Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party would garner 14 seats in the Globes poll, announced yesterday that Jacob Perry, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, would run in the faction’s second slot. Perry said that he would resign his position as chairman of Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, Israel’s fourth-largest lender by assets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, before running for office.
The Shas faction, which would take 13 seats in the Globes poll, announced Wednesday that Arye Deri, the former chairman who was forced to leave politics after being convicted on bribery charges in 2000, would return to his former post in the party, which represents the religious-Sephardi community.