Poll: Olmert could take on PM in election

Though he denies plans to reenter politics, an Olmert-Lapid alliance could win 30 seats, 'Post'-commissioned poll finds.

Olmert political poll 370 (photo credit: (Jerusalem Post/Smith Research survey))
Olmert political poll 370
(photo credit: (Jerusalem Post/Smith Research survey))
A comeback by former prime minister Ehud Olmert would have a huge impact on the political map, according to a Smith Research poll commissioned by The Jerusalem Post following Olmert’s acquittal on the key corruption charges against him on Tuesday. But the former Kadima leader vehemently denied on Thursday he was seeking a return to politics.
Were Olmert to form a new centrist party that included Kadima and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid, it could win 30 seats, compared to 27 for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, according to the poll. The new party would take away mandates from Likud and Labor and could potentially form the next government.
The poll found that if Olmert returned to the helm of Kadima, the party would win 17 seats, compared to just eight under its current head, Shaul Mofaz. Kadima under Olmert would take three mandates away from Labor, one from Yisrael Beytenu and five from the newly formed Yesh Atid.
But when asked who is most fit to be prime minister, Netanyahu won by a wide margin. Thirty-three percent said Netanyahu, 15% opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich, 12% Olmert, 10% Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and just three percent Mofaz. 27% said none of the above or that they had no opinion.
Netanyahu did especially well among respondents under 30, while Olmert fared better among people over 50. Among those who voted for Kadima in 2009, 30% preferred Olmert, 22% Yechimovich, 19% Netanyahu and only one percent said Mofaz or Liberman.
The poll of 500 respondents representing a statistical sample of the adult population was conducted by telephone on Wednesday. It had a 4.5% margin of error.
Olmert vigorously denied a Haaretz report that on the eve of the acquittal of most corruption charges against him, he said he was thinking of seeking his old job and that Lapid would join him. He told reporters at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies on Thursday that he “enjoyed learning about my plans from the papers,” but that the report was untrue.
“I have no intention of entering political activity,” he said. “I am not involved and I do not intend to be involved. I have a party, Kadima, that I am a member of. I won’t form a new party. I am busy with other things now. Please don’t drag me to places where I don’t want to be and things I don’t plan to be involved in.”
However, sources close to Olmert confirmed earlier this week that he is motivated to return. His associates said he still felt bitter about the way Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other politicians forced him to quit when the corruption allegations first surfaced.
Lapid also denied the report, saying that anyone who was trying to connect him to Olmert was attempting to harm his party. Olmert is a family friend of Lapid, who said he was happy about the acquittals.
“Despite the reports, Yesh Atid does not and will not in the future have any intention or plan to run together with Olmert, who is a member of Kadima,” Lapid’s spokeswoman said.
“Kadima has failed as the representative of the sane Center and we intend to replace it in the next election.”
Olmert has not fared as well in polls in other media outlets. A Midgam poll broadcast on Channel 10 Wednesday night found that 70% of the public did not want him to return to politics and just 22% said he should come back.
A New Wave Research poll published Thursday in Israel HaYom found that 55.2% of Israelis oppose Olmert returning to public office. The poll found that 26.8% believe he could return to politics.
When asked whether Olmert was innocent or guilty in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, 37.5% said guilty, 23.9% said innocent and 38.6% said they did not know or declined to comment. The poll of 500 respondents has a 4.4% margin of error.