Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The results of the exit polls have been announced and the situation is as follows. Kadima is projected to get about 30 seats and the Likud about 28 seats. Lieberman is in the area of 14-15 and Labor in the area of 13. Both Bayit Yehudi and Ichud Leumi seem to have gotten in, though barely. One of the two Arab parties might not get in. Overall, the right bloc is in the area of 63-64 seats.

So what will happen? First, the dry legal facts. the president must consult with the various parties and then make a determination which party has the best chance to form a coalition. That party gets the first chance to try. By all accounts, Likud has the best chance to form a coalition, but Peres is strongly tied to Kadima and might choose to give them the first shot.

So how will it play out? It's pretty straightforward. This is a bargaining game between Likud and Kadima. The most obvious coalition is one that includes both of them. The question is which gets to form the government and which joins it. The fact that Kadima is projected to be a bit larger (this is likely to change) seems like a key point in its favor, but in fact is not. The crucial issue in a bargaining game is the "disagreement point". The disagreement point is the result that ensues when the two sides fail to reach agreement. In this case, failing agreement, Likud has a plausible right-wing government, but Kadima has no plausible government. As a result, Likud has the upper hand in the negotiation with Kadima.

Several fine points should be noted. First of all, put yourself in Lieberman's position or in Shas's position. Given the fact that if Likud goes with Kadima, the negotiating position of these parties is reduced to close to zero, they have a very strong incentive to prefer a narrow government. This puts Likud in a strong position vis-a-vis them . For that reason, I predict that by tomorrow, we'll be seeing all these parties declaring their undying loyalty to a narrow Likud government. Second, from Likud's point of view, it would be better for Peres to give Kadima the first shot at forming a government. This is because once they fail to do so (and they will fail, if given the chance), Likud's advantage (the disagreement point) will be that much more clear to both sides. (Of course, if what you really want is a narrow right coalition, it might be better to just get on with it, but it's quite clear that that is not what Bibi wants. He wants only to wield the threat of such a government, not to realize the threat.)

One detail. As of now, Ichud Leumi has three seats. This might change once all the votes, including soldiers, are counted. If it holds, it means that Michael Ben-Ari is not in. While MBA and I share many views, the fact is that, fairly or not, there is just no chance of Ichud Leumi sitting in any coalition so long as he is in the faction. Without him, a narrow right coalition is that much more plausible.

A final note. One thing that held fairly constant in the polls for months was that Likud + Lieberman were worth 44 seats. Right now, they are projected at 42. My guess is that we'll see that number creep up to 44 as the real results come in. In fact, it is not unlikely that Likud will end up with more seats than Kadima.

Update (Wed. morning): A few brief observations. 1) It's hard to imagine anybody who voted for Kadima watching Livni's "victory" speech and not feeling buyer's remorse. 2) It seems that all of Kadima's surplus over what was expected came from Labor and Meretz. The tentative total of 44 for the three parties combined is what was anticipated. The Old Left is officially dead. (But voters on the left at least have the good sense to rally around the candidate with the best chance. If only the right had as much sense.) 3) Bibi will be the next Prime Minister and nobody knows it better than Peres. (The right has 65 and that number can only go up with the soldier votes and the remainder agreements.) That's why he'll work behind the scenes to engineer a deal that will give them equal power. It must be avoided. 4) The dumbest thing the right-wing parties can do is announce that they intend to drive a hard bargain with Bibi. The less likely a right-wing coalition is, the stronger Kadima is vis-a-vis Likud. We'll find out pretty quickly which of these parties is headed by a mathematician and which is headed by a Rov. 5) The next government will be Likud - Kadima - Lieberman - BY - one other dati party.

11 Comments:

Blogger MoChassid said...

Ben

My kids will be much happier when they read this post in the morning than when they went to bed. Shkoiach for the insight. The thought of Livni as PM made them ill.

Interestingly, I told them that I thought the numbers migh, at the end, actually favor Likud. I said this based on presumed left wing polling bias. Is that your take?

1:32 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I think the exact result is of marginal interest. But my reasons are 1. the consistency of the poll results until now, 2. right-wing voters are more prone to lie to pollsters and 3. the soldiers are more right-wing than the general population

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and through it all, olmert is pm.

2:05 AM  
OpenID FuzzyFace said...

My concern has been that Shas would bargain its way into a Kadima/Labor/Meretz government, selling out the rest of the country in order to get its own perqs. Their behavior in the past does not give me a lot of confidence.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is the trouble with michael ben ari's views?

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Y. Ben-David said...

Some good news is that the real "YESHA-haters", i.e. those who fought the most against the YESHA settlements in Labor and MERETZ bombed out. Talia Sasson was no. 7 on MERETZ and so she won't be harassing us from the Knesset.

It also seems (pending looking at the geographic disribution of the vote) that the Ihud HaLeumi made inroads into the Haredi vote (Katzele worked very hard in the last couple of weeks in this sector). If this is the case, it can be said that the Ihud HaLeumi and Bayit-Yehudi-MAFDAL didn't really split that much of the vote and were talking to different constituencies (full disclosure-almost everyone in our family voted Ihud HaLeumi with one for SHAS-she wanted to vote Haredi and I convinced to go for SHAS since they were making a push for dati leumi voters and were also talking about issues of general concern to Klal Israel like consumer protection and were not being merely sectoral like UTJ).

7:03 AM  
Blogger Shimon said...

I think Kadima's stong showing may actually be a blessing in disguise as now their ego might prevent them from being second place in a Likud led government.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

you have a 4th reason as well: Likud and YB have a remainder agreement while Kadima's has gone down the tubes as their agreement partner didn't make the threshold. So while Kadima is 20,000 votes away from another seat it is highly unlikely they will get it (if Balad gets knocked out with the soldiers votes b/c they are also close to the threshold then in the re-distribution this might happen, but otherwise it is safe to assume that kadima is at its final number), the Likud might pick up one or even two more seats.

a power-sharing government will be great for Yesha (always has been - only a strong Likud can destroy settlements). There will be no big diplomatic moves in the government you describe - even if Kadima is a "strong" partner. Bibi ran the election like Thomas Dewey and missed his last big opportunity.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Ben-Ari is a professed Kachnik.

Shas will not dare go into a left coalition. They've only done so when it was a fait accompli.

Yes, some baaad people are out of the Knesset.

I allude to the remainders issue in point 3.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Saul Lieberman said...

what could bibi offer tzippi?
what do kadima voters want now (as if that matters)?

while i don't really understand those who voted for kadima, one such voter explained it to me as an Anyone But Bibi vote; and livni was the candidate with the best chance to beat Bibi.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

Kadima picked up 10 seats over the last few days from undecided voters.

1/3 of Kadima's votes were from ultra-leftists who committed political suicide, so as to give the left a chance to return to power. They were picked up from Labor and Meretz. Another 1/3 was the anything but Bibi voters, who might have voted Likud were it someone else. another 1/3 were returning kadima voters. about 20% of Kadima's voters from the last election went to the Likud/YB this time. Kadima is clearly no longer a center-right party (not that it ever was, but this time they didn't really steal many votes from the right wing pretending to be such).

7:46 PM  

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