Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Elections are only the beginning

There are days when I am grateful that I don't live in a parliamentary democracy.

Israel has just finished its parliamentary elections and the center-left Kadima (party of current PM Ehud Olmert and led by current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) party earned 1 more seat (28 in total) than the right-wing Likud party (led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). In the American system, this would be an ugly, but decisive victory.

In the Parliamentary system, it's an ugly stalemate. Kadima needs 60 parliamentary seats to form a government, so it has to try to broker some coalition with the other parties. Livni tried to do this earlier this year, but was unsucessful, which is why elections were held to begin with. To make things worse, right-wing parties made greater gains than left-wing parties, so Likud is in a stronger bargaining position for building its governing coalition.

Both Kadima and Likud are claiming victory, for now. Though analysts suggest that because of their overall gains, the right-wing bloc, led by Likud, will be the ultimate government.

Why should you care? Primarily because the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a key national security concern for Israel and the United States (not to mention the Palestinians) may hinge on who wins out for the government of Israel. Kadima supports final-status negotiations and dismantling Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Likud mainly supports economic assistance to the Palestinians and is much more vague on settlements and the two-state solution.

So hang on, it's gonna be a rocky ride. Follow every twist and turn either through your local media, or through Ha'aretz, the excellent Israeli Newspaper. Link here.