As Ministers Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz vigorously court Kadima's top brass ahead of the impending primary elections in September, a poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute for Ynet reveals which candidate would bode better for the orphaned party in the even of a general election.
Pollsters hung up their phones on Wednesday after a two-day operation, mere hours before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivered his dramatic resignation address.
Respondents were asked to cast their votes in a hypothetic general election, with the identity of Kadima's leadership playing the changing variable.
Under Foreign Minister Livni, Kadima enjoys a clean win over chief rivals Likud and Labor, the poll concluded. However, under Transportation Minister Mofaz the party loses to the Likud under its current chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the poll, Kadima under Livni wins 32 Knesset seats while the Likud straggles behind with 27. But the same Kadima under Mofaz would only win 22 seats to the Likud's 28.
Kadima currently has 29 seats, Likud has 12 and Labor has 19.
The massive 10-seat discrepancy may push Kadima party officials currently inclined towards Livni to publically declare their, as of now still muted, support for her.
The polling figures may also sway the party's swing voters and field operatives, who have a larger personal affinity towards Mofaz. But despite the warm ties with the transportation minister, Kadima's key party operatives, keen to retain the premiership in Olmert's wake, may shift to Livni's camp.
As for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Labor chairman has genuine reason for concern. The poll puts his party at a resolute third, regardless of who heads Kadima. With Livni at the helm, Labor drops to 14 seats from its current 19. With Mofaz the numbers pick up and Labor wins 16 seats, but this is still a far cry from the Likud's 28 in that same scenario.
But Barak has more to worry about. While Livni would draw the votes of 37% of those who voted for Kadima in 2006, she also takes a substantial bite out of Labor's constituency – claiming 40% of its 2006 voters and an additional 11% of Likud voters.
Mofaz would draw 24% of former Kadima voters and only 15% from Labor's 2006 voters.
Meretz should also fear Livni. With her at the head of Kadima the left-wing party would have to settle for its current number of mandates – five. With Kadima under Mofaz, however, Meretz can expect seven seats.
Livni takes seats from RightBut the Left would not be Livni's only casualty, right-wing parties should also start rooting for Mofaz. With Kadima under Mofaz, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu wins 10 seats. But under Livni it would only win eight seats – a substantial drop from its current 11.
National Union-NRP and Shas do not seem to be affected by changes at Kadima's helm. Were the elections held on the day of the poll, the religious-Zionist party wins eight or nine seats (it currently has nine), and the ultra-Orthodox-Mizrachi party wins 10-11 seats (it currently has 12).
United Torah Judaism maintains its six seats – also regardless of Kadima's power struggle. The Arab parties (United Arad List – Ta'al, Hadash and Balad) also hold on to their collective ten seats.
Business mogul Arcady Gaydamak's party, Social Justice, barely scrapes by the threshold, and the Green Party, in the same boat as Social Justice, are not expected to come close to the coveted threshold if Livni heads Kadima.
The study polled 500 adult Israelis (of voting age) and has an error margin of 4.5%.