ISRAELI Prime Minister Shimon Peres currently has a slim lead over his Likud rival Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the 29 May election for prime minister. Following changes to the electoral laws, the Israeli electorate will be voting separately for the prime minister and the 120-seat Knesset.
Although Peres has consistently been ahead of Netanyahu, his lead has been drastically reduced from the 30 per cent margin he enjoyed in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin last November. The four suicide bombings in late February and early March seriously damaged Peres' credibility on the key issue of security. Further suicide bombings before the election may be enough to tip the balance in Netanyahus favour.
Opinion polls for Knesset elections tend to reflect those for prime minister. A Gallup poll on 10 May gave Labour 39 seats and the right -wing coalition of Likud, New Way (Gesher) and Tsomet 37 seats. The new prime minister will have 45 days to form a government before new elections must be called.