A TV survey released on Monday hours after the left-wing Labor and Meretz parties agreed on a merger indicated that the alliance would not pay dividends at the polls, nor would it break the political stalemate that has condemned Israel to its third election within a year.
Labor and Meretz received six and five seats respectively in the September election. According to the Channel 12 poll, they will receive nine seats as a joint list come March 2.
However, the largest party in the center-left bloc, Blue and White, did manage to widen its lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, with the survey predicting that Benny Gantz’s party would receive 34 seats compared to 31 for the premier’s faction.
The Joint List of mainly Arab parties has maintained its support, holding at 13 seats, according to the poll. Similarly, Yisrael Beytenu maintained its roll as kingmaker, receiving seven seats in the survey (down from eight in September’s elections) and remaining the difference-maker between a center-left bloc of 56 seats and a right-wing bloc of 57 seats.
To the right of Likud, New Right chairman Naftali Bennett saw his argument possibly proved correct that two separate national religious parties would bring in more votes than a united slate.
The Channel 12 poll indicated that the defense minister’s party would receive six seats while a combined Jewish Home-National Union-Otzma Yehudit slate would receive five seats. This compared to the 10 seats the survey predicted the four parties would receive if they all ran together.
However, the network reported that Netanyahu has continued to pressure the national religious slates to run as one in order to avoid a scenario in which one or more of the factions fails to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold in an independent run.
The New Right had announced earlier Monday that it would be running independently and vowed to siphon off voters from the Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and While parties.
As for the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, the poll projected that they too would largely maintain their power, earning eight and seven seats respectively.
The poll also asked participants who they felt was most suited to be prime minister. Gantz and Netanyahu each received 39 percent support.
The Channel 12 survey included 505 respondents. It had a 4.4% margin of error.
The result of the poll indicated the March 2 vote would produce a continued deadlock, after elections last April and September failed to result in a government, a first in Israel’s history.
Israelis will go to the polls with Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving premier, officially facing charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as bribery in one of them.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and has portrayed the charges as an “attempted coup” by political rivals, the media, police and state prosecutors to oust him from office.