Rabbi Ovadia Can Decide Presidency - but Not in First Round

Here is an ideal (and possible) scenario for presidential candidate Shimon Peres in the first round of the elections. Kadima has only four deserters (in other words, 25 votes for Peres), while all the Shas MKs vote as one for Peres (12), the Pensioners' five MKs vote for him, four from Meretz, six buddies from Labor, three from the right and the religious, and two from the Arabs.

He still gets only 57 votes in the first round and doesn't have the 61 votes needed for a decisive victory. The conclusion: Shas is capable of deciding the presidential elections in Peres' favor, but it cannot do so in the first round.

Here is an ideal first-round scenario for candidate Reuven Rivlin: 37 of the 38 votes from the right and United Torah Judaism vote for him, six deserters from Kadima, four from Shas, three from the Arab parties and five from the rest. He gets only 55.

In other words, he falls short of 61 as well. Conclusion: Even after Shas' decision, the first round will be a round to size up the troop strength, but it will not yield a decisive result.

What nonetheless has changed in the wake of the Shas decision? Before the decision, it seems that whether or not Peres is elected, he will suffer humiliating losses in the first and second rounds. Thanks to Shas, he can make it through these rounds with his dignity intact.

And here are several possible scenarios for the first round:

Peres wins. An even score in the first round between Peres and Rivlin, around 50 to 55 each, would actually herald an overwhelming victory for Peres and a defeat for Rivlin, considering that most of the votes for Avital are expected to wander his way. There will be no point for Colette Avital, with fewer than 20 votes, to continue to the second round.

A neck-in-neck race. Rivlin gets between 50 and 55 votes, Peres - only 45, and Avital - 25.

Avital is under tremendous pressure to pull out of the race ahead of the second round and not wait for the third, preferably accompanied by an announced endorsement of Peres. With Peres and Rivlin alone in the race, a close contest is expected and a battle in the corridors over every vote.

Peres is defeated. Despite the support of Shas, the results are Rivlin - 50, Peres - 40, Avital - 30. Between the first and second rounds numerous attempts are made to punch even more holes in the sinking Kadima ship. Avital tries to swing votes her way. Shas MKs ask Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's permission to jump on the Rivlin bandwagon. This scenario has been used over the past few days to terrorize MKs on the left who are considering voting for Avital.

The right, together with UTJ, has 38 votes. This is the Rivlin camp's hardcore. If Shas (12 votes) were to support Rivlin, he would have 50 votes, and would need another 11 deserters from the center and left, and that is possible.

But Shas is backing Peres, and therefore Rivlin needs 23 deserters. That is a very tall order even when your rival is Shimon Peres.