JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel”s centre-left Labour Party, plagued by high-level defections and disarray, is losing ground to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon”s Kadima ahead of a general election on March 28, an opinion poll showed on Friday.
The Maariv newspaper survey predicted Labour would take 19 of parliament”s 120 seats in the vote, down from the 28-seat sweep seen after trade-union firebrand Amir Peretz toppled elder statesman Shimon Peres as party leader last month.
But analysts say Peretz, untested in war and peace, has failed to consolidate a platform to run against former general Sharon. In a blow to Labour, Peres joined forces with Sharon, calling him the best leader for talks with the Palestinians.
Kadima is holding strong in polls with a predicted 40 seats, despite a mild stroke that Sharon, 77, suffered this week.
Sharon”s former party, the right-wing Likud, is trailing Kadima and Labour. But Likud was buoyed by the election on Monday of hardline former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as its leader.
The Maariv poll predicted Likud would take 15 seats in parliament, up from a 1O-seat nadir recorded after Sharon”s walkout.
The survey also found 46 percent of Israelis believe Sharon is best suited to be prime minister, well ahead of Netanyahu”s 19 percent and Peretz”s 14 percent.