Omri Conviction Fails to Dent Kadima Lead

With six weeks to elections, Kadima remains in a stable position, and maintains a significant lead over its two main rivals, Likud and Labor, according to a Haaretz-Channel 10 poll conducted Tuesday night.

According to the poll, conducted by Prof. Camil Fuch's Dialog company, were elections to take place today, Kadima would win 40 Knesset seats (unchanged from last week), Labor would win 19 (two down from last week), and Likud would drop from 15 to 13.

Both Yisrael Beiteinu and the newly formed National Union-National Religious Party alliance, on the other hand, have markedly improved their positions, with the current poll awarding seven seats to the former (up from five last week) and 10 to the latter (up two from last week, prior to the union).

No significant changes were noted in the positions of the remaining parties.

The survey, conducted among a representative sample of 615 respondents, also shows no change in the situation of the "floating votes," which continue to account for some 20 Knesset seats. Nevertheless, fewer respondents said they were likely to change their minds ahead of election day - 21 percent as opposed to 28 percent last week.

The fall-off registered by Labor and Likud comes despite the concerted effort both parties have made over the past week in their "negative campaigns" against Kadima. The Likud has slammed Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the evacuation of the Amona outpost and the rise of Hamas, while Labor has butted Kadima on the issue of corruption, following the sentencing of Sharon, and has also intensified its own social message.

An additional indication of Kadima's stability can be noted in the weekly grade the public gave Olmert, who scored 5.30 in the latest survey, as opposed to 5.34 last week. The high grades Olmert scored in January - around 6.5 - are now a thing of the past, and were born presumably out of sympathy and solidarity with the ailing Ariel Sharon.

Olmert also maintains his popularity as a candidate for prime minister, with 33 percent of the respondents giving him the nod, as opposed to 26 percent for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and 16 percent for Labor's Amir Peretz.

Some six weeks after Olmert stepped into Sharon's large shoes, Tuesday's survey again examined the question of whether the public views the acting prime minister as the latter's natural successor. Just 42 percent of the respondents were willing to say they viewed Olmert as Sharon's successor. Among Kadima voters, however, Olmert's situation is much better, with 70 percent seeing the acting prime minister as Sharon's successor.

Labor's weakening comes despite the public support that has been shown for the economic plan presented last week by Peretz and Prof. Avishay Braverman. The plan appears to have garnered widespread support among the public in general, and other political parties, but this support is not translating into Knesset seats. And why? Apparently, the public does not believe in Peretz's ability to implement his plan and good intentions (to increase the minimum wage, welfare allowances, the education budget, etc.).

If there is some consensus among the Israeli public, it pertains to the political future of the Likud's Naomi Blumenthal, who was convicted last week of bribery. Some 75 percent of the respondents in general believe she should resign from the Knesset and the Likud slate, with 60 percent of Likud voters holding the same opinion.

Likud leader Netanyahu, however, thinks differently. He has not demanded that Blumenthal step down in the wake of her conviction.