In Israel's current state of political affairs, it takes very little time and not a huge change to move a party from near-obscurity to a legitimate contender for leading the country. Take a look at Labor's ascent within two weeks – from being a small party barely fit for a leadership claim to being the most significant threat on Netanyahu's next term.
Two factors make this possible:
1. Horse race: even though Israel has a parliamentary system in which parties are elected and coalitions are formed, the public looks at the race as if it were some kind of Presidential race between two candidates. So for a party to be seen as a serious contender it needs to be the number one or two in projected number of seats – thus making its leader the supposed "alternative" for the Prime Minister. This happened to Labor's Herzog even though the projected number of mandates for a center-left bloc has not really improved.
2. No dominant parties: Israel's field of parties has a number of midsize contenders, and no party that can claim to have a dominant number of seats. In the previous round, this fact made Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid a sudden kingmaker with its surprise last minute surge to 19 mandates. In this round it moved Labor within a week from being just one of several smaller midsize parties to one of the leading two midsize parties. That is enough to make it the "alternative".
Two caveats should be added to the current Labor surge:
1. Polls cannot be trusted at this stage to accurately predict the actual number of seats for each party. Many parts are still not in place for the coming election (see our analysis of the accuracy of current polls here).
2. It is quite possible that in this round coalition negotiations would be more decisive, more nerve-wracking, and more crucial than the vote itself. Many coalitions can come out of these elections, and the ability of the leaders to have successful negotiations in the day after could be the most important factor in forming the next government.
And here are the latest numbers:
All right: Likud Beiteinu (Likud+Yisrael Beitenu)+Habayit Hayehudi+Strong Israel
All center: Yesh Atid+Hatnua+Kadima+ Kulanu
All left: Labor+Meretz+Hatnua
All religious: Jewih Home+Shas+Yahadut Hatorah+Eli Yishai
All Arab: Hadash+Raam Taal+Balad
Click here For the full table (featuring all the polls since the elections).
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