Surveys show Netanyahu-led bloc leading, but still 3-4 seats short of majority
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PM's bloc seen winning 57-58 seats in the 120-member Knesset

Surveys show Netanyahu-led bloc leading, but still 3-4 seats short of majority

Rash of polls before Monday’s election give PM’s Likud party either a slight lead, or neck-and-neck with rival Blue and White; Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu still kingmaker

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)
This combination picture created on September 18, 2019 shows, Benny Gantz (R), leader of the Blue and White political alliance, waving to supporters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing supporters at his Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv early on September 18, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand and Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Three opinion polls published Thursday and Friday showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party maintaining a slight lead over rivals in Blue and White, but neither party leading a bloc with a majority in the Knesset.

A survey by the Kan public broadcaster gave Likud 35 seats to Blue and White’s 34 ahead of Monday’s third election in less than 12 months. The Israel Hayom newspaper in its own survey gave both Likud and Blue and White 33 seats each, while a third poll from the Maariv newspaper gave each of the two parties 34 seats. (Blue and White won 33 seats compared to Likud’s 32 in the September elections.)

Netanyahu leads a bloc of right-wing and religious parties that would win 58 seats compared to 56 held by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at the head of a center-left-Arab bloc, according to the Kan results. Israel Hayom gave Netanyahu’s bloc 57 seats to Gantz’s 56, as did Maariv. A ruling coalition needs at least 61 seats for a majority in the 120-member Knesset.

The poll results showed Israel no closer to ending the political deadlock that has forced three elections in 11 months, as voters who left Blue and White or rallied to Likud seemed to be doing so from other parties within their respective political blocs.

Sheets of newly printed ballots seen at Palphot printing-house in Karnei Shomron, in preparation for Israel’s upcoming general elections, February 12, 2020. (Flash90)

Other parties mostly remained generally in similar positions to previous polls, with some either losing or gaining a seat at the expense of others, but mostly within their respective blocs.

The Joint List, an alliance of mostly Arab-majority parties won 14 seats in the Kan and Israel Hayom surveys, and 13 in Maariv’s poll.

The Labor-Gesher-Meretz left-wing alliance had either eight or nine seats in the polls, the Yamina alliance of religious nationalist parties either seven or nine seats, the Shas party eight, and fellow ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism seven or eight seats.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman seen at a conference at the Israeli Institute for Democracy, in Jerusalem, on February 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the polls, Avigdor Liberman, who leads the Yisrael Beytenu party, still holds the balance of power, with Kan giving him six seats and the other two polls both finding the hawkish secularist party would win seven seats, enough to carry either bloc to a majority.

However, Liberman has vowed to not sit in a coalition with the Joint List, which has similarly said it will not partner with him. Blue and White has repeatedly said it will not form a government that relies on the Joint List. Without the Joint List, Gantz’s bloc is at best around 50 seats, even with Liberman’s support. Liberman has also vowed not to partner with Netanyahu.

None of the survey’s gave the far-right Otzma Yehudit party more than 1.6%, far short of the 3.25% needed for entry into the Knesset.

Asked who is best to serve as prime minister, 45% backed Netanyahu in the Kan survey to just 34% for Gantz. In the Israel Hayom survey, 49% backed Netanyahu and 35% supported Gantz, while Maariv similarly gave Netanyahu 45% and Gantz 36%.

Israel Hayom also looked at how the public feels about the election campaign and the ongoing political deadlock, with 69% saying there has been a drop in their esteem of the political system, 27% saying there was no change, and the rest giving other answers.

In addition, 44% felt the campaign has been dirty and 32% said it was boring.

Some 12% said they have changed who they plan to vote for during the current campaign, although the poll didn’t indicate if that was a switch from one bloc to the other.

For Likud voters, 42% said Netanyahu’s leadership is the main reason they are voting for the party. Among Blue and White voters, 28% said it was to prevent the right-wing bloc winning, and 26% said it was to back Gantz for prime minister.

More people think there will be a fourth round of elections (38%) than any other outcome, while 31% think a right-wing government will be established and just 9% think it will be a left-wing government.

The Kan internet and telephone survey was conducted by Kantar, and included 1,206 people with a 2.9% margin of error.

Israel Hayom’s survey, conducted by Maagar Mochot, polled 1,040 people with a 3% margin of error.

The Panel4all internet survey carried out for Maariv included 534 people. The report did not give the margin of error.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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