JERUSALEM (AP) – Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party held a commanding lead in two polls on Israel’s March 28 elections published on Thursday.
But the polls had different messages about whether Kadima was growing stronger or weakening.
A poll by the Dahaf Research Institute gave Kadima 43 of parliament’s 120 seats, up one over last week’s poll, with the dovish Labor and hardline Likud lagging at 20 and 15 seats, respectively. The poll, published in the Yediot Ahronot daily, surveyed 500 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
A Dialog poll in the Haaretz newspaper, which surveyed 620 people and did not give a margin of error, had Kadima at 40 seats, down three from the previous poll, and Labor and Likud at 21 and 15, respectively. The newspaper attributed the decline to the violent clash last week between Jewish settlers and security forces who evacuated a settlement outpost, and to Israel’s transfer of more than $50 million (¤40 million) in owed taxes to the Palestinian Authority, despite its imminent takeover by Hamas militants.
Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon in November after he bolted from Likud to pursue further territorial concessions to the Palestinians. Sharon remains comatose after suffering a massive stroke on Jan. 4, but the party has retained its frontrunner status in polls.
Olmert inherited the party’s leadership after Sharon suffered a stroke in early January that has left him in a coma. Earlier this week, Olmert said that under Kadima, Israel would hold on to the three biggest West Bank settlement blocs and all of Jerusalem, but would pull out of areas where most Palestinians live.
Thursday is the last day for parties to officially register for the ballot. So far, a total of 18 parties, including small lists representing dope-smokers, a fishmonger and a puppeteer campaigning on an anti-banks platform, have signed up.
Also Thursday, two parties expected to split the far right-wing vote, the National Union and the National Religious Party, announced a merger for the elections.
Together the two parties currently have 12 members in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, but are expected to fare worse in the upcoming election.