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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09TELAVIV342 2009-02-06 17:04:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

THE FINAL POLLS AND A POST-ELECTION TIMELINE

Tags:   PGOV PINR KDEM IS 
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VZCZCXRO5185
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #0342/01 0371704
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061704Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0424
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000342 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM IS
SUBJECT: THE FINAL POLLS AND A POST-ELECTION TIMELINE



1. SUMMARY: The campaign strategists and media are united in their
efforts to ignite public interest in the upcoming February 10th
elections to Israel's 120-member Knesset. The final polls conducted
by Israeli media and published on February 6 are predicting a closer
race than they were a week ago, as support for the Yisrael Beiteinu
Party (YBP) rises at the expense of the Likud. The real drama may
be reserved for the post-election period when, operating according
to a legal timeline, President Peres will task a party leader with
the formation of a new Israeli government and the work of
coalition-building may commence. The leader of the party that wins
the most votes is traditionally given the first opportunity to form
a government. Despite the narrowing of the race between Likud and
Kadima, most Israelis polled anticipate that Likud Chairman Binyamin
Netanyahu will be Israel's next prime minister. Kadima organizers
are hoping for an upset. End Summary.



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THE FINAL POLLS PREDICT CLOSER RACE


--------------------------




2. Polls released by Ha'aretz and other media organs on February 6
- last date that polls are allowed before the elections -- predict
that Likud will fall short of the thirty seats anticipated in recent
months. Analysts believe that YBP has picked up support at Likud's
expense rather than at the expense of Kadima. Others attribute the
fall to a successful (negative) Kadima ad campaign against Likud
Chairman Netanyahu. A Kadima contact told us he believes that these
final pre-election polls showing a close race will lead undecided
voters to vote for Kadima or Likud rather than YBP or other second
or third tier parties. Kadima operatives remain hopeful that those
who know and support Netanyahu have already made up their minds, and
that a greater percentage of the undecided electorate will vote for
Livni on February 10. Viewed through this optic, Kadima organizers
are hoping for a high voter turnout, which they believe will help
lift Livni to victory. Lower turnout of the undecided -- of either
Jewish or Arab voters - will hurt Livni, in their view.



--------------------------


ELECTION DAY & COUNTING...


--------------------------





3. On Tuesday February 10th, close to 5.3 million Israelis over the
age of 18 will be eligible to vote for one of 34 party lists for the
18th Knesset to be held in polling stations open from 7am to 10pm in
major cities and until 8pm in small communities across the country.
When the polling stations close an official and representatives of
three different parties, assigned to each station, will take the
ballot results to the regional election committees, where they will
be fed into the database of the Central Elections Committee (CEC).
That database, which will be accessible by internet, will be updated
throughout the night of the 10th of February. By dawn on February
11th, and depending on the closeness of the race, the general trend
of the voting may be apparent and exit polling data will be
released.



--------------------------


MAKING IT OFFICIAL


--------------------------





4. Barring computer failure, allegations of voter fraud or other
irregularities, the final returns of polling should be known well in
advance of the mandatory deadline for publication of the official
election results. Israeli law provides a full week however, in
which the authorities may finalize the count and publish it in the
official government gazette, no later than February 18.



--------------------------


ENTER THE PRESIDENT


--------------------------





5. Within seven days of the publication of the official election
results, the President of State must, after consultation with party
leaders, task one with the formation of a government. Israeli law
does not explicitly prohibit consultations between the President and
party leaders prior to the official publication of the results and
if the election race is as close one between Likud and Kadima, as
some pundits and pollsters now forecast, the President may wish to
embark on his consultations as early as possible to ensure that the
party leader tasked is certain of a Knesset majority (61 members)
without which the governing party would not have the confidence of
the Knesset. A close election result could affect the criteria for
the President's selection of the candidate to form a government,
since mere party size might be of less consequence than the ability
of the party leader to form the minimum requisite coalition of 61
Knesset members. This consideration aside, there is an as-yet
unbroken Israeli tradition that the President will give the leader
of the party that wins the most votes the first opportunity to form
a government.



--------------------------


THE PRESIDENT IN SEARCH OF A PRIME MINISTER


--------------------------





6. Once the President has completed consultations with all the

TEL AVIV 00000342 002 OF 002


faction leaders of parties that will cross the two-percent threshold
required to win a seat in the Knesset, he formally assigns the task
of establishing a government to a selected party leader who has 28
days in which to meet this requirement, with a further 14 days
extension at the discretion of the President. If the said Knesset
Member is unable to form a government within this maximum
allocation, or on presenting the government to the Knesset, fails to
secure its vote of confidence, the President may again consult with
party leaders with a view to re-assigning the task of forming a
government.



--------------------------


THE PRIME MINISTER IN SEARCH OF A COALITION


--------------------------





7. The most difficult part of the post-election political process is
not the president's search for a willing prime minister but the
prime minister's quest for a viable coalition. The two processes
are inextricably linked, however, which is why the law makes various
modalities available for the purpose of forming a government and
lays down a clear timeline which must be met by its leader in regard
to the legislature. One key date in the timeline is the date for
the convening of the 18th Knesset which is set for the afternoon of
Tuesday 24 February. This date which falls only 14 days after the
elections, is highly symbolic, but does not obligate either the
President or a new prime minister -- in the event that one has been
named. If the process of consultations and government formation is
still unresolved, the Knesset session will be devoted to the
inaugural session of the plenary and the swearing in of all 120
members of Knesset. In the event that the President has succeeded
in naming a Prime Minister who has successfully formed a government,
the Knesset could be asked for its vote of confidence. A more
likely scenario is that the prime minister will require nothing
short of the available allocation of time to assemble a viable
coalition to be presented to the Knesset at a later date, most
likely in late March (assuming the first party leader is able to
form a government within 28 days).

CUNNINGHAM