Seats by bloc: Israel 2015 vs. 2013

An important lesson from this week’s Israeli election: in complex multi-bloc political systems, the government that forms really is at least as much about the inter-party bargaining between elections as it is about the elections themselves.

Yesterday I noted the (small) changes in votes for the right, Here I will look at all the blocs. Note: blocs, plural–point being, there is no single left or center-left bloc to oppose the right or replace it as government. Caution: the 2015 results are not yet official.

Labor won 15 seats in 2013, and Tzipi Livni’s HaTnuah won 6. The blended list of these two forces (branded Zionist Union) is at 24 in the preliminary results of this election. [some correction of sloppy writing since original posting]

By contrast, the main parties of the right, Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Bayit Yehudi, appear to have won 44 seats in this election. They won 43 in 2013 (when the first two of these had a blended list).

Yes, that is a net gain of 3 for the center-left and a net gain of 1 for the right. Such a landslide for Bibi!

We should add Meretz to the left bloc; this party won 6 seats in 2013 and looks to have 5 in 2015. So that would bring the net gain to this larger definition of the left down to 2.

The ultra-orthodox (Haredi) parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, combine for 13 seats. That is a fairly substantial drop from 18 in 2013.

The Joint List of Arab parties and the Jewish-Arab party, Hadash, is currently on 13 seats, whereas the three separate lists presented by this bloc (if we can even call it that, other than for threshold-clearing purposes this time) won 11 in 2013.

And then there is the assemblage of centrist parties (not counting Linvi’s, which we already accounted for): Yesh Atid, Kadima, and Kulanu. These parties combined for 21 seats (19 of them for Yesh Atid) in 2013. They also have 21 in this election, with Kadmia no longer in existence and Kulanu new to the scene.

Toting things up by bloc, from winners to losers:

    Arab +2
    Left +2
    Right +1
    Center +/- 0
    Haredi -5

Not much change, but the smallest gainer and biggest loser have enough to form a government, when combined with the centrist (or soft right) Kulanu.

The real difference in government outcomes will be less the voting patterns having shifted than shifts since 2013 in inter-party relations. In 2013, the election outcome would have allowed a right-Haredi coalition with the absolute bare majority of seats, 61. For various reasons, Likud leader and PM Benjamin Netanyahu preferred to bring into the coalition the election’s biggest seat gainer, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (who had 19 seats). Lapid and Naftali Bennet, leader of Bayit Yehudi, however, jointly thwarted the inclusion of the Haredi parties, having both campaigned (for their own reasons) in favor of “equalizing the burden” (ending military exemptions for the ultra-orthodox). Netanyahu never wanted this coalition, and seized upon various (largely manufactured) policy disagreements in late 2014 to un-do the government and force an early election. And now he can form a coalition with his natural partners, and with a likely more pliant centrist force in Kulanu. This latter party is headed by a former Likud minister and includes a former ambassador to the US (who served under Netanyahu).

Bottom line: There is no big shift to the right whatsoever in this election. But, with Shas and UTJ replacing Lapid and Livni, there will be a shift in both a right and religiously Orthodox direction to the governing coalition.

17 thoughts on “Seats by bloc: Israel 2015 vs. 2013

    • Will any policy changes that were introduced from the previous government be reverse in the future government? Will the mandatory serving in the military for the Ultra Orthodox be rolled back? Is there any examples of any country where a government policy is passed by the previous government and then the future incoming government repeals it?

      • JD, I would assume because they are easy, unlike parties more towards the left, including Yesh Atid. They can be bought.

        Rob, the policy changes (which were modest, but progress) are almost certainly going to be reversed. Bayit Yehudi might try to block them–it was their deal with Yesh Atid that left the Haredi parties out of the government last time–but their seats are reduced and they hardly have any leverage.

  1. Toting things up by bloc, from winners to losers. Netanyahu picked up (by security appeals?) 5 seats from the Haredi:

    Arab +2
    Left +2
    Haredi – 5
    Right +5 – 4 = + 1
    Center +/- 0

    Result: a shift of 4 from the right to the left (2) and Arabs (2).

    This is not a victory for the right at all. Why is Labour not claiming a moral victory? or an actual victory?

    • Labour/ZU are not claiming an actual victory because they cannot be the largest party and cannot form a government. The winner of an election is not the party that gets a swing towards it. The right may have got a swing against them, but that is irrelevant as they can still form a government, making them the victors.

      • Correct, Henry. In a multi-bloc parliamentary system, the government result does not necessarily track the election result, except in the very basic sense that each party’s bargaining weight is set by the election.

        On the basis of the seats alone, this is something of a victory for the left (defined overly broadly–therein lies the problem!). But that’s not what matters.

    • It would be a mistake to infer that Likud picked up seats from Haredi voters. The two swings are not directly related. Some Haredi votes were wasted on Yachad (basically the ultra-nationalists who ran as Otzma LeYisrael last time, plus Eli Yishai’s supporters who left Shas), and there was probably lower turnout in that sector. Likud’s gains come at the expense of Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu, most likely.

      I doubt Bibi’s security appeals moved any votes, except from his two more-hardline partners.

  2. Likud did probably not pick up seats from Haredi voters, but it definitely picked up seats from a Haredi party: Shas. Shas is a Haredi party but its electoral base has been broader, consisting of Mizrahim who are sometimes not that strictly religious. For them, a vote for Shas has more to do with their identity (and with the importance that Rav Yosef and Shas had in the emancipation process of Mizrahim) than with Shas being a Haredi party. These are exactly the voters that are receptive to Netanyahu’s statements against the left and his whole “it’s us or them” campaign. Avoda (and, before, Mapai) used to be very Ashkenazi-centric and Mapai was, in Israel’s early days, sometimes racist toward Mizrahim. The “electoral revolution” of 1977 has partly been the revolution of the Mizrahim, voting for a party (Likud) that did not discriminate them. These sentiments still matter. At an anti-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv a few days before the elections, a pro-Zionist Union speaker referred to people as “mezuzah kissers” in a pejorative way. He referred to the practice of kissing a mezuzah when entering a house, something many traditional Sephardim do. This wasn’t meant for all Mizrahim but the damage had of course already been done, reinforcing the idea that the Zionist Union/Avoda don’t respect Mizrahim and Mizrahi culture. Issues like these are extremely sensitive. Many Mizrahim vote(d) for Likud because of a general negative feeling about the left, and this time, they were probably succesful in convincing many Shas 2013 voters.

    • Yes, I agree with that overall analysis, Samuel.

      I will admit that the possibility that any significant Shas vote would go to Likud had not occurred to me, but I completely agree that Shas is more than a Haredi party. And so it makes sense.

      Also, I wonder if any significant chunk of Shas’s lost votes (from among the less Orthodox) went to Kulanu, whose leader Moshe Kahlon is from a family of Libyan Jews. A few other prominent candidates on his list are from Sephardi/Mizrahi backgrounds.

  3. I doubt that it’s a significant chunk, because it’s a bigger step from Shas to Kulanu than from Shas to Likud, but some Shas 2013 voters might indeed have voted for Kulanu this time. Although Kulanu’s support is spread quite evenly across various “electorates”, Kulanu performed best among Mizrahim (and among young people) and in predominantly Mizrahi areas: 14% in some Mizrahi areas in Holon (somewhat of a tautology), 12% in Beersheva. Indeed, this has to do with Kahlon’s image as a Mizrahi guy who “made it”. Without the last-minute swing to Likud, he might have won even more voters.

  4. Funnily, by the way, Kulanu came first in Daliyat al-Karmel, a Druze town, with a whopping 38%. Akram Hasson, number 12 on the Kulanu list (and a former Kadima MK), lives there.

    • Thank you, Samuel. I just came here to comment on precisely that: I see Kulanu did quite well in several Druze towns and in Ghajar (Alawite, mostly). The party also came first in Margaliyot, which apparently has a Yemenite and Iraqi presence. So there may be something to Kahlon (and others on his list) appealing to Mizrahi (independent of whether they had previously been Shas voters; in fact, these sorts of voters might have migrated from Likud along with Kahlon himself).

  5. A better map (if you can manage the Hebrew): z.ynet.co.il/short/content/2015/elections_map2015/

    • Yes, that is better. Thank you, JD.

      Let me know, please, if you have a link to any of the exit poll results. I assume they re-weight them as is done in the US once the election results are known. I am interested in whatever they have in demographic information (assuming they also ask a battery of questions, like US exit polls).

      • “Take second-hand accounts of unpublished polls, add speculation, and you’re about as close as we can come now to knowing why Israelis voted as they did. That’s because exit polls don’t tell us. Unlike in the U.S., where pollsters ask voters a wide range of questions about who they are and why they voted as they did just after they leave the polls, Israeli voters simply say which party they backed, according to Saltan. We’ll have to wait a few days for post-election polls to ask deeper questions.” – fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-israels-exit-pollsters-missed-right-wing-rally-for-netanyahu/

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