THERE can't be many electoral systems in the world that enable the leaders of both the main parties to claim victory. But that is exactly what Tzipi Livni, leader of the centre-left Kadima, and Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud, were justifiably able to do yesterday after the results of the Israeli general election were known. Livni got 28 seats in the 120-seat Knesset (Parliament) and Netanyahu 27 - but Harold Wilson's oft-quoted wisdom on parliamentary majorities that one is enough does not apply in this case. Both Livni and Netanyahu need allies, and lots of them, before either can form a government with a reasonable chance of survival. There are various options: the most obvious and perhaps attractive would be a Kadima-Likud government of national unity - but the question immediately arises of who would be prime minister. (The kind of New Labour solution allegedly arrived at between Blair and Brown before the 1997 election is not a good precedent.) A centre-left coalition involving Kadima and Ehud Barak's Labour party would be one possibility and the rightist grouping of Likud and the new force at this election, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party, would be another, but Lieberman's politics verge on the extreme and are openly anti-Arab. Under the Israeli constitution the president, Shimon Peres, has 42 days to consult and decide on who should be invited to form a government. It will not be an easy task.
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