Haaretz-Dialog Poll: Kadima Dwindles to 37 Seats

With less than one month before national elections, Kadima is slowly but steadily losing ground against its rival parties.

The erosion of the party once led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and now captained by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continued this week, as Kadima lost another two seats in the latest Haaretz poll, and now has 37 seats for the first time in two months.

However, the two main parties lumbering just behind Kadima and contending for an apparent second spot have gained little to no ground.

Labor has held a projected 19 seats for the past three weeks. The Likud has managed to regain just one seat, likely from Kadima, and now has 15 seats.

It is already more than clear that Kadima is losing steam and just one question remains: Where will it stop?

It is still difficult to envision a party stealing the lead from Kadima and being in a position to form the next government. But Olmert's "kernel of strength" is continuing to shrivel.

The 44 to 45 seats that polls projected Kadima would secure after Sharon's hospitalization are not, in all likelihood, salvageable.

Among other competing parties, only Meretz-Yahad has undergone a fundamental change. For the first time in a long time, Meretz-Yahad has six seats in the current poll. (Meretz-Yahad also has six members in the current Knesset).

It is important to note that the poll was conducted one day before the Likud Central Committee voted yesterday on altering the method by which it forms its Knesset list.

The Haaretz-Channel 10 News poll, conducted by Dialog under the supervision of Tel Aviv University Prof. Camil Fuchs, was conducted Tuesday and questioned a sample population of 590 respondents. There is a 4.1 percent margin of error.

Labor led by Ayalon would bolt ahead

Labor would reach 26 Knesset seats if former Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon were to replace party chair Amir Peretz as Labor leader, the poll indicates. Respondents said that in this case Labor would bolt ahead and secure a projected six seats for a total of 26.

Those seats would be stolen from Kadima, which, in the fictional scenario, would drop to 34 seats, and Meretz-Yahad, which would drop to four seats.

However, it is not likely this would actually happen. It does, however, indicate that a certain segment of votes in Kadima and Meretz are not comfortable with Peretz's leadership. Ayalon represents what Yitzhak Rabin represented in the 1992 elections and Ehud Barak represented in 1999 - a daring warrior general with moderate views on state affairs. In addition he is Ashkenazi.

The swift shift of votes from Kadima and Meretz to Labor, if Ayalon were leading it, shows the election results are not a foregone conclusion. Many voters, in addition to the floating votes that are estimated at some 18 seats, have not completely made up their mind and are waiting for something to happen, so they can change their vote.