I’ve inquired about this. Despite the “excess votes” agreement between Labor and Meretz, if Meretz fails to reach the new 3.25% threshold (which would occur if too many of their supporters vote “strategically” for the Labor-Livni Zionist Camp list), all Meretz votes will be discounted and therefore wasted. They would not be added to the Zionist Camp total.
Most recent polls have shown Meretz winning between five and seven seats, so it’s not unreasonable to expect it to retain its current representation at six. Yet Meretz generally does better in pre-election polls than in the actual election. The most egregious example was in 2009, when nobody expected Meretz to plummet to three seats — probably a result of traditional Meretz voters switching to Kadima under Livni at the last minute.
I fear the same situation this year, with people thinking they are being “strategic” in voting for the new Labor-Livni list. Meretz activists must explain to their base that the importance of voting for Meretz this year is not just in supporting progressive/left policies, but that the combined moderate & peace camp (the center-left) would suffer a disastrous loss of seats if too many people tried to be “practical” rather than voting their truest convictions.
Left-wing journalist Larry Derfner warns about this in a sarcastic tone, on his Facebook page:
So, you feel closest to Meretz but you want to help Herzog/Livni form the government? Or you feel closest to Meretz but you want to big up the Arabs in Knesset? Go ahead, Meretz Nation, vote for Herzog, vote for the Arab List – and you’ll end up kicking Meretz out of the Knesset, you’ll end up killing the best party in Israeli politics. Bibi will form the government anyway, or Herzog will form a sell-out government, while the Arab List will still get 11-12 seats, but Meretz will be gone. Sounds like a plan.
And there’s this analysis from the Israel Democracy Institute, on the new vote threshold, by political scientist Dr. Ofer Kenig.
Finally, this links to a lively 9 and a half minute podcast of three articulate young American Israelis on why Meretz is having difficulties.
It’s debatable that the Meretz message is too “nuanced,” as the discussants conclude, but it is clear that the left-wing cast of candidates in the new Zionist Camp list does make life more difficult. The male of the three makes a blatant error at a certain point when he suggests that Meretz should “be happy” if Labor (the Zionist Camp) wins 27 seats and they win three, momentarily forgetting that this would disqualify Meretz and deprive the peace camp of those three Meretz seats.
Our colleague, Paul Scham, the executive director of Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, made this observation about the podcast:
They seemed to miss the central problem in their glib prescription of what Meretz should do. Of course Meretz wants the ZC to be the biggest party and get the first crack at forming the gov’t – but it also wants to survive in order to push that center-left coalition leftwards. That’s why they can’t be praising the ZC as a campaign strategy now – given the polls – because too many people might take the hint. The speakers also seemed to assume that ZC is reliable on peace issues (it isn’t) and that Stav Shaffir is the new face of Labor (she isn’t). Of course Shaffir belongs more with Meretz but she made the (understandable but regrettable) decision that she’d have more clout in a larger party, which seems true.
The only point they were right about is that Meretz both collectively and also as regards individual leaders and MK’s isn’t catching on with the potentially sympathetic part of the public as it should. Too many of my friends will vote Labor if there’s a chance they’ll win even though they prefer Meretz. I wonder if their internal rules to provide fairness are hamstringing and preventing the chances of new and popular faces from emerging and representing the party. The fact is that politics is about popularity as well as policy, and Meretz needs a Stav Shaffir-like figure – and is suffering from not having one.
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