Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Israeli elections: the retirees strike back

The Israeli elections look to be a clear-cut victory for the center- left led by the post-Sharon Kadimah Party (28-30 seats) which will likely enter into a coalition with Labor (around 20 seats) and Shas or Sephardic Religious Party (around 12 seats) excluding the hard right from any role in the new Government. Biggest surprise: the "only in Israel" Pensioners Party, led by former spymaster Rafael Eitan, which won 7 seats on a platform of defending Israeli retirees from further benefit cuts and may round out the new coalition. Together with continued pursuit of disengagement from the Palestinians, look for the new Government to take a more skeptical view of tax and benefit reductions, a pattern previously reported to be emerging in Italy, India, and other countries surveyed herein. Look also for Shas and other religious parties to begin talking more about social justice issues--the majority of religious voters have below medium incomes--along with their traditional cultural and school support issues. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who as Finance Minister imposed stringent tax and budget cuts, said after his defeat he still thinks his policies had saved the Israeli economy: perhaps so, but little consolation to him or his party now.


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