Political earthquake in Israel: For the first time in the nation's history, a newly formed party will form the government, after Kadima scored an impressive election victory Tuesday, the Ynet/Rafi Smith poll showed.
Despite Kadima's victory, the Olmert-led party scored a more modest victory than expected, winning 30 Knesset seats, the poll showed. Labor came in second with 21 mandates, according to the Ynet poll.
If poll results prove correct, Kadima will form the next government along with Labor and other parties, but the Olmert-led party would not be as powerful as it had hoped.
Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Our Home party is another big elections winner, and has become the third largest party in Israel according to the poll, winning 14 seats.
The Likud won only 10 seats, a devastating showing compared to the previous elections, when it won 38 seats.
Meanwhile, the Pensioners' party, which before the elections was not assured of winning any Knesset seats, used the momentum gained in the past few days to win a startling six seats, the poll showed.
Acting Prime Minister and Kadima Chairman Ehud Olmert rushed to the Western Wall in Jerusalem after poll results were announced to express his gratitude over the win.
Olmert told associates that the exit polls were "a big victory for those who put the disengagement plan before a national consensus, over those who wished to see the elections as a rejection of the disengagement."
The Kadima chairman also told his associates: "I'm satisfied with the results although we could have gotten more. With that, it's still too early to talk about coalitions. We'll wait for the real results."
The full results of the Ynet/Rafi Smith poll, which comprised 1,000 respondents:
Kadima: 30 seats
Labor: 21 seats
Israel Our Home: 14 seats
Shas: 12 seats
Likud: 10 seats
National Union – NRP: 9 seats
United Torah Judaism: 6 seats
Pensioners' party: 6 seats
Meretz: 5 seats
Arab parties: 7 seats
Green party on verge of reaching threshold
Low voter turnout rate
Election Day was characterized by an unusually low voter turnout rate, which reached 63.2 percent by the end of the day. Earlier, a Central Elections Committee official warned uncharacteristically low turnout rates would mark a "serious blow to Israeli democracy."
According to the Channel 1 exit poll, Kadima won 29 seats, Labor won 22 seats, Israel Our Home won 14 seats, Likud 11 won mandates, Shas 11, Pensioners 8, Nation Union-NRP 8, United Torah Judaism 6, Meretz 5, and the Arab parties 6.
The Channel 2 poll gave Kadima 32 seats, Labor 22 seats, Israel Our Home 13 seats, Likud 11 mandates, Shas 10, Pensioners 6, Nation Union-NRP 9, United Torah Judaism 5, Meretz 5, and the Arab parties 7.
According to Channel 10, Kadima won 31 seats, Labor won 20 seats, Israel Our Home won 12 seats, Likud won 12 seats, Shas 11, Pensioners 7, Nation Union-NRP 8, United Torah Judaism 6, Meretz 5, and the Arab parties 3.
The picture that emerges from all the polls shows the following main conclusions:
- Kadima will likely form the next government, but would not be as powerful as it had hoped
- The Likud has collapsed, and may end up as the fifth-largest party overall
- Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Our Home has become the third largest party
- The Pensioners' party scored a major surprise with a much higher total than expected
- The 17th Knesset may be one of the most split ones in history and would likely feature a fragile coalition