Top pollster challenges assertion right-wing bloc has been gaining ground
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Top pollster challenges assertion right-wing bloc has been gaining ground

With PM said eyeing fresh national vote, Camil Fuchs tells Haaretz that when taking into account undecided voters, political blocs are polling evenly, similar to past few elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-L) and his coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C-R), attend a graduation ceremony for new pilots in Hatzerim air force base near Beersheba, on June 25, 2020. (Ariel Schalit / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C-L) and his coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C-R), attend a graduation ceremony for new pilots in Hatzerim air force base near Beersheba, on June 25, 2020. (Ariel Schalit / POOL / AFP)

A leading Israeli pollster said Thursday that internal surveys he has performed over the past few months have shown the combined strength of right-wing and religious parties on one side, and center-left/Arab factions on the other, stands at 55-56 Knesset seats apiece (out of a total of 120), indicating a fresh round of elections could result in renewed political deadlock.

Since the formation of the unity government and the break up of the Blue and White alliance, polls have shown Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc strengthen at the expense of the center-left bloc (though the worsening coronavirus crisis has recently put a dent in such figures).

But Camil Fuchs, one of the country’s leading pollsters, told Haaretz Thursday he believed this was in fact the result of most undecided voters being on the center-left, skewing the survey results in favor of the right.

Therefore in his recent surveys, in addition to questions on specific parties, Fuchs has asked voters to choose between four options — whether they would vote for a right-wing, left-wing, centrist or ultra-Orthodox party. Responding to this question, undecided voters who did not give their support to a specific center-left party tended to answer they would vote center-left, which brought the blocs to 55-56 seats each.

Such a result would again position Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman, whose right-wing secularist party Fuchs predicted would get eight seats, as coalition kingmaker, and maintain the status quo that has prevailed over the three recent elections.

Fuchs said that the figures appeared to be stable and were repeated in several studies he has conducted since the beginning of July. He believed the findings were more accurate in determining the size of blocs than results generated by questions about parties.

Fuchs, a professor at Tel Aviv University, is a regular pollster for Channel 13 and carries out research for academic purposes.

Polls have recently shown a sharp drop in approval of Netanyahu’s handling of the pandemic, in particular with regard to the economic fallout, as the health and financial repercussions of the crisis drag out.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fuchs’s findings come as reports say Netanyahu may be seeking new elections later this year and intends to ditch his power-sharing agreement with Blue and White.

The current unity government, led by Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, was sworn in in May after a 508-day crisis that saw Israel slog through three inconclusive rounds of elections. Though Gantz had campaigned on not joining a government led by Netanyahu due to the prime minister’s indictment on corruption charges, he cited the coronavirus pandemic and the intractable political crisis as the explanation for his reversal.

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday issued a rare public rebuke to Israeli politicians, saying they were dragging the country behind them like a “rag doll.”

“As a citizen and on behalf of us all, I say: Get a grip! Stop the talk of early elections, of that terrible option, at this time, and save yourselves from it,” he said. “The State of Israel is not a rag doll that you drag around as you squabble,” Rivlin added.

“Our citizens, all of us, need you focused, clear, working to resolve the unprecedented crisis in which the State of Israel and all of humanity have found themselves. It is up to you to do it.”

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