In the comment thread to my preview of the elections of March, quite an interesting discussion developed about possible coalition alignments following Israel’s 28 March election.
All who participated in the propagation of ideas about the coalitions assumed that Kadima would take on Labor as a partner. The only discussion was what (if any) other parties would join.
Not so fast. It is not clear that Labor will be in, and Kadima would prefer to build a coalition without either Labor or Likud. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “ideal coalition” would be with Israel Beiteinu, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Such a coalition would allow Kadima to keep the Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance and Education portfolios.
However, polls suggest these parties may not be sufficient to reach a majority (61 seats).
Kadima officials ruled out asking Meretz to join the coalition, leaving Likud or Labor as the only remaining alternatives for Kadima to build a stable government. Asked which of the two was preferable, sources close to Olmert said it depended on whether the two parties would replace their current leader.
“It depends on who goes home first, Bibi or Peretz,” an Olmert associate said. “A second consideration will be which of the two parties is larger. But if they are the same size and their leaders remain, it would be better to start off with Likud in the government and then go to Labor if Likud leaves the coalition.”
So, Sharon’s old party and his new party may yet be back together.
This jockeying for coalitional advantage shows once again that what supporters and critics alike of proportional representation often say–that voters are free to vote without strategic considerations and that parties simply appeal to their “true believing” extreme–is not true.
Suppose you are an Israeli voter and you favor a more secular and leftist policy approach. Maybe you like Meretz and are not particularly a fan of the Labor party. Certainly, if you fit this profile, you dislike Likud, and even more, you loathe the idea of Shas and UTJ having prominent roles in government. What do you do? Presumably you vote Labor, as the party most likely to tug a Kadima-led government in your direction, among the parties likely to play a role in the executive. You vote strategically, in other words.