Both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party and Binyamin Netanyahu's opposition Likud styled themselves the winners of Tuesday's elections, after exit polls broadcast on the three television networks showed Kadima would be the largest party in the new Knesset, but the Likud-led right-wing would constitute the larger bloc.Now comes the hard part--building a coalition, something Livni failed to do the first time when Olmert originally stepped aside:
With 83% of the ballot boxes counted by 2:45 a.m., Kadima was leading Likud with a predicted 29 mandates, while the latter had garnered a predicted 27 seats. Israel Beiteinu was expected to earn 15 mandates, Labor 13, Shas 11, United Torah Judaism 4, National Union 4, Hadash 4, Meretz 3, Bayit Hayihudi 3, United Arab List 3, and Balad 2 seats.Livni's 2-mandate lead hardly constitutes a mandate; basing the winner on the right-wing majority of votes is not the typical way of deciding the winner.
Livni had argued earlier in the day that whoever headed the biggest party should be deemed to have "won the public's trust" and should thus be charged with forming the next coalition.
But Likud leaders were already working on Tuesday to construct a "blocking" majority that would deny her any such prospect.
Bottom line, David Hazony's comment that "the right to form a government does not necessarily go to the largest party" may well prove prescient. In the meantime, Kadima has plans to form a coalition--with Lieberman's Israel Beitenu:
Lior Chorev, another top Kadima strategist, said, "The President has to allow Livni the chance to form a coalition. It's going to be difficult, but if she gets a chance she will succeed. The last time she had the opportunity to do it she decided not to burden the Israeli taxpayer with billions of shekels paid to the ultra-Orthodox. Livni has a backbone that Netanyahu never had. This time she can get the moderate left and the moderate right. We will ask Netanyahu to join us. We know he is hurting now, but he'll take the next 48 hours to recover and then we'll talk to him. Lieberman can also join without too many problems. Lieberman's campaign is far from what he is when he's in the government, he's much more practical."Apparently Lieberman is practical enough that he has publicly said he leaned towards joining with Likud. Meanwhile, opponents in both Labor and Likud were planning future challenges to Barack and Bibi.
The trick now is to see if a unity coalition can be formed that can actually live up to its name.