Last updated: 29 March, 2012

No gains for Israel opposition after primary

Israel’s main opposition party Kadima would lose more than half the seats it now holds were elections to be held today despite choosing a new leader, a survey published on Thursday showed.

The poll, published by the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper showed Kadima would see its hold in the 120-seat Knesset fall from 28 to just 12.

The survey was conducted shortly after Kadima announced that former defence minister Shaul Mofaz would be its next leader, after his resounding victory over incumbent Tzipi Livni.

The primary’s biggest winner appeared to be the Labour party, which would win 18 seats according to the poll, more than double the eight seats it currently holds.

Analysts have said the party could stand to gain from Livni’s loss to the more hardline Mofaz, with liberal Kadima voters peeling away in favour of Labour.

Livni had been criticised for failing to differentiate her party from others and for proving unable to capitalise on public anger at the government over the cost of living.

But the survey suggested her ouster in favour of Mofaz was unlikely to immediately reverse the party’s dwindling popularity.

It found the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would come out on top if elections were held now, garnering 29 seats.

Most respondents — 63 percent — said Mofaz’s election would have no effect on the chances of them voting for Kadima. Fifteen percent said there was now a greater chance, and 13 percent said there was now a lesser one.

Kadima was established in 2005 by then prime minister Ariel Sharon in the wake of his controversial decision to pull Israeli citizens and troops out of the Gaza Strip.

Both Mofaz and Livni followed Sharon out of the Likud party into Kadima.

Yediot Aharonot did not provide the number of respondents nor the margin of error for the poll.