06 January 2006

More on Sharon

BerlinBear avatarHmmm, I'm now a little unsure about my assumption that Ariel Sharon is already dead. I still suspect that he is, but I am confused by the news agencies' and the Israeli authorities' consistency and thoroughness in following through with their story about his 'stable' situation. I am, however, apparently not the only one who thinks he's already dead: Israelinsider agrees.

The official line today seems to be that Sharon is still in an induced coma and that he will be kept in that state for the next 48 hours at least. His vital signs, apparently, are all stable, but Israeli politicians are now working on the assumption that he will never recover enough to return to work.

Given that, it's particularly interesting to see that two separate telephone polls published in Israeli newspapers today both show that support
Kadima - the new political party recently set up by Ariel Sharon, upon his defection from the right-wing Likud party - remains almost as high without Ariel Sharon as with him.

One of the surveys, published in Yedioth Ahronoth, indicates that were elections in Israel to be held immediately, Kadima under the leadership of Sharon's right-hand man Ehud Olmert would perform better than many might have expected:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party headed by Finance Minister Ehud Olmert would win 39 Knesset seats were elections held today, with Labor winning 20 seats and the Likud trailing behind with 16, a survey commissioned by Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth revealed Friday.

The survey, conducted by the Dahaf Institute, also revealed that Shas would win 9 seats, the Arab parties would receive 7 seats, Meretz - 6 and Shinui - 4.

The survey also examined the public's favorite choice to replace Sharon as Kadima's leader, if the prime minister is unable to return to political life following his massive stroke Wednesday night.

Shimon Peres received the most support with 23 percent, followed by Olmert with 21 percent. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni received 14 percent, while Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz trailed behind with only eight percent.

The second survey, published in Haaretz today, contains similar findings. In fact, they are even more positive for Kadima:

Ariel Sharon's party, Kadima, would win 40 Knesset seats if elections were held as of Thursday and the party were to be headed by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Should Tzipi Livni step into Sharon's shoes, Kadima would get 38 Knesset seats. Were Vice Premier Shimon Peres to take over leadership of the party, Kadima would win 42 seats - exactly the number of seats it would have garnered four days ago, when Sharon was still healthy.

The results are from a special survey conducted yesterday for Haaretz and Channel 10 by Dr. Camil Fuchs's polling company, Dialog.

The survey covered 650 people representing the general public, and was conducted less than one day after Sharon suffered a severe stroke. The Haaretz-Channel 10 survey also checked the response to two more party leadership candidates  Shaul Mofaz (36 Knesset seats) and Meir Sheetrit (28). With Olmert - considered the leading candidate - heading Kadima, Labor loses one seat and drops from 19 seats to 18, as does Likud, which drops from 14 to 13.

As the Haaretz article notes, both of these surveys were conducted in the immediate wake of the news of Sharon's ill-health and therefore are not necessarily accurately indicative of how voters would actually vote in a general election. At least some of the support for Kadima expressed in the polls is most likely to be simply an expression of sympathy for and solidarity with Prime Minister Sharon, as he fights for his life.

However, even bearing that in mind, those involved with Kadima will be very pleased with these results. They would seem to indicate, to some extent at least, that what was assumed to be a party built around Ariel Sharon, for Ariel Sharon, and consisting of little more than Ariel Sharon, actually has a bit more to it, and a broader base of support for its policies - rather than just for Sharon himself. How long that support will hold and whether or not it can be maintained through until the election, remains to be seen.

One last point on Sharon, before I move on to something else in my next post: isn't it interesting how fast and how completely the story about Sharon and his family being under investigation for fraud and illegal campaign financing, to the tune of $3 million, has disappeared from the headlines since the stroke? I'm not suggesting for a moment that Sharon's ill health is an elaborate hoax to bury an uncomfortable story, but both the timing and the efficacy are remarkable, aren't they?