Saturday, April 1

The Aftermath of the 2006 Israeli Elections

The Elections have come and gone amidst much speculation that the Israeli Electorate would elect the Kadima Party with an overwhelming majority. This did not occur. The polls were inaccurate and did not predict such large support for the Pensioner’s Party, which received seven mandates. This surprised everybody, not least the candidates themselves. An overwhelming majority in Israel is NOT an absolute majority and as I had written last week, the results were predictable and great reliance will be on the coalition partners who will determine the nature of the new government under P.M. Ehud Olmert.

The wheeling and dealing has already begun. It looks as if the balance of power remains in the hands of the Labour leader, Amir Peretz. There will be compromises on election promises towards a more humane social policy that takes into account the necessities of the weaker sections of Israeli society. It remains to be seen what coalition will arise from the aftermath of the elections.

What is disturbing is that Kadima will invite potential partners whose programmes are diametrically opposed to it. Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu Party is a case in point. This party received support from many right-wingers who were disappointed with the Likud’s performance in the previous government. There is even talk of the Likud and Labour forming some kind of a block to prevent Kadima from forming the new government. I hope that this is a rumor. It is almost certain that this is NOT what the electorate wants. If this does occur, it would prove that the electorate desires are not taken into account and further reinforces the fact that voting in Israel is an exercise in futility and frustration.

There are positive signs after the elections. The Likud received its just reward for its handling of the weaker sections of Israel’s society. It had many Knesset members under criminal investigation for bribery and corruption. Much of the Likud policies were determined by a loutish central committee who were determined to direct all policies for their own personal gain and that of their connections. Nepotism was the name of the game. Israel was crying for clean government. The Likud has been sent to the sidelines of Israeli politics with a poor showing of twelve mandates. Many parties such as Shas, Labour and Pensioners have gained strength on a social programme ticket. This area was neglected in the past, especially when Bibi Netanyahu was Finance Minister. He had made budget cuts that affected the poor adversely. Employees in the public service had extra cuts in salary by having to pay increased taxes to bail out Israel’s economic problems. The wealthy were hardly affected.

The Israeli Electorate was confused and this was illustrated by the outcome of the elections. The extreme right wing has no way of forming a block to prevent Olmert from forming a new government. The National Union-National Religious Party, despite their union, did not receive the support that they expected. An unfortunate outcome is the increased strength of the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party. This could be a problem for Kadima who is showing signs of courting that party. This would be an obstacle for further withdrawals under the new government. The left wing was also not clear-cut. Meretz had a poor showing. They received five mandates. It remains to be seen whether they will be included in the new government.

The importance of the potential partners for the formation of a viable coalition remains just as true today as in the past. Kadima is a centre party that could be pulled in any direction because of the nature of its coalition partners. It is hoped that there will not be too many compromises of opposites in order to get a coalition at all costs. Most of the Israeli electorate had censured the right wing settler movement parties, which are an obstacle for peace with the Palestinians.

The future direction is clear despite the traditionally confused electoral results. To an extent, it also illustrates the immaturity of the Israeli electorate in its handling of the democratic processes in the country. It ranges from lukewarm apathy to frustration with the behaviour of the previous loutish Likud Government. They knew that they had to remove the Likud from power but had no idea what party to support overwhelmingly instead.

Perhaps the message that one can discern from the haphazard voting patterns is a desire to move in a direction of improving social conditions and disengagement from the Palestinians. The nature of disengagement from the Palestinians is unclear as Hamas is not ready to negotiate with Israel at this stage.

1 comment:

Ixora said...

Hello there. I'm a debator from Singapore and one of the tasks my coach has put me up to is the Gaza Pullout and its aftermath. Your blog holds some interesting views regarding politics. In Singapore, the youths here are known for their political apathy instead and I am sad to admit that I am one of them.

But I guess over there in Israel, the political climate is much more engaging given your spectacular insights on the Isreali-Arab conflict.