Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Brief update on election results: possible coalitions.
If Sharon convinces Labor to join a unity government, then many coalitions are possible. So assume he doesn't.
Sharon could form either of two large, stable coalitions without Labor:
(1) A secular-right coalition of Likud, Yisrael B'Aliyah, Shinui, the National Religious Party, and National Union. This coalition is projected at 67 seats.
(2) A religious-right coalition of Likud, Yisrael B'Aliyah, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Religious Party, and National Union. This coalition is projected at 66 seats.
Both of these coalitions have been viable all through the campaign - meaning that in all polls, including when Likud was at its lowest showing, they had a majority of seats. However, Sharon has never wanted either coalition, because either coalition would mortgage his government to Avigdor Lieberman of National Union, the most far-right party in the Knesset (unless Herut gets in).
The surprisingly strong showing for Likud, however, makes 2 other coalitions plausible. Neither coalition has polled a majority since December, but both poll a majority now. They are:
(1) A narrow Shinui-based coalition of Likud, Yisrael B'Aliyah, Shinui, the National Religious Party and One Nation. This coalition is projected at 62 seats.
(2) A narrow Shas-based coalition of Likud, Yisrael B'Aliyah, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Religious Party, and One Nation. This coalition is projected at 61 seats.
These coalitions are the same as the right-wing coalitions, but without National Union and with the One Nation party tied to the Histadrut Labor Federation.
One Nation is left-wing on economic matters, as would would expect of a union-dominated party. They favor greater welfare payments, required union approval for privatizations, raising the minimum wage, etc. But they have no official position on security matters and no official position on religious matters. They are a narrow interest-group party, and one that the country as a whole is not furious at. In other words, whatever they mean for the national interest, they are a very attractive coalition partner for Sharon, who has no interest in or understanding of economics but wants to assemble a centrist coalition on security matters.
Sharon has made it clear that he is much more comfortable sitting in government with the NRP than with National Union. Assuming he can't get Labor, he has to choose between Shinui and Shas. But whichever way he turns, he can't avoid National Union without getting both the NRP and One Nation on board.
This suggests two things. One, Amir Peretz, the head of One Nation, may be receiving an early call from Sharon. Two, that economic reform is going to go about as far in the next Knesset as it did in the last. That is to say: nowhere.