Live Israeli election commentary
6:40pm With 87% in, Netanyahu’s right bloc has declined to a combined 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. A key reason is that the United Arab List, which was below the 3.25% threshold previously, is now back up to 4.0%. Also, Tel Aviv, a bastion of the left in Israel, reports late.
2:55pm With about half the votes counted, OryxMaps has the right-wing parties aligned with Netanyahu getting a total of 65 of the 120 Knesset seats. This is currently biased towards the right.
9:55am An updated exit poll, based on late voters, now gives Netanyahu’s right bloc 60 of the 120 seats, one seat short of a majority. As I said before, it’s still highly possible for Netanyahu to form a government even if his bloc is just short.
7:30am Wednesday The OryxMaps Twitter account has details of three exit polls. While there are differences in individual party support, all three give the most probable right-wing coalition (Likud, Yamina, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionists) 61 of the 120 seats, enough for a majority.
Counting is slow in Israel, with most votes not counted until the afternoon our time. It will take a few more days to get final results.
Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
The Israeli election will be held on Tuesday, with polls closing at 7am Wednesday AEDT. This election will be held just over a year after the last election. Owing to failure to form a governing coalition, there were three elections in a year from 2019-20.
After the March 2020 election, a grand coalition was formed between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’ Blue & White, with Gantz recanting on his promise to not form a government with Netanyahu owing to COVID. Before entering negotiations with Netanyahu, Gantz had received support from 61 of the 120 Knesset members; he threw away what is likely to be the best chance to defeat Netanyahu.
Under the agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz would rotate the premiership, with Netanyahu having the first 18 months. The agreement broke down at the end of 2020, when Gantz realized (surprise! surprise!) that Netanyahu had no intention of giving up being PM. The Knesset was dissolved in late December.
The 120 Knesset members are elected by national proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. Blue & White won 33 seats at the 2020 election, but are now only polling just above this threshold.
Likud is easily the largest party in the polls with about 31 seats, well ahead of Yesh Atid with 18. Religious parties (UTJ, Shas and Religious Zionist) are likely to win 20 combined seats. The right-wing Yamina is on about nine seats. Likud plus these four parties is about 60 of the 120 seats, very close to a majority.
Even if these five parties fall short of a majority, Netanyahu may be able to form a government with the assistance of former leadership rival Gideon Saar’s New Hope. New Hope has several former Likud members, and polls give it about eight seats.
It isn’t just the opposition’s disarray that is helping Netanyahu, but also Israel’s successful vaccination program; it is the world’s leader on vaccine doses administered per capita. From a peak of 101 COVID deaths on January 20, Isreal’s daily COVID death rate has fallen into single figures.
Bad polling for UK Labour ahead of local elections
Local elections will be held throughout England on May 6, and also include elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Owing to COVID cancellation of 2020’s elections, there will be far more seats than usual at stake.
Last April, Keir Starmer easily won the Labour leadership. Like most incumbents, the Conservatives had a polling surge in their favour as a result of COVID. But with deaths increasing to a peak of more than 1,500 on several days in January, Labour was in a near-tie with the Conservatives in late 2020.
The UK’s vaccination drive, with 42 doses per 100 people, has been far better than the European Union (13 per 100). As in Israel, UK deaths have fallen dramatically from their January peak. As a result, the Conservatives have opened about a six-point lead over Labour.
A bad performance for Labour in the local elections probably means little for the next general election, not due until 2024. But Starmer could be ousted. It takes 20% of Labour’s MPs to nominate a challenger. Much of Labour’s left-wing membership voted for Starmer in the expectation he would perform much better than Jeremy Corbyn at the disastrous 2019 election. If Labour can’t poll better, Starmer could be replaced by a left-winger.
As with UK Labour’s support, support for Scottish independence has recently fallen. A ComRes poll in January gave Yes to independence a 13-point lead, but in March they had No up by two points, with other pollsters similar. There has been a recent dip for the SNP that could cost them a majority in the Scottish election; there is a far more proportional system for Welsh and Scottish elections than UK general elections.
German and Dutch elections
In Germany, there has been a slump in support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU that gives the three left-wing parties a realistic chance of forming government at the September election. The left nearly won outright majorities at two recent state elections. However, Wednesday’s Dutch election was dismal for the left. I covered these elections on my personal website on Friday.