Ariel Sharon's Kadima party strengthens

Ariel Sharon's centrist Kadima party would easily win March 28 elections, despite the increasingly dim chance that he will head the movement after suffering a massive stroke, according to two new opinion polls.

The polls, released late Tuesday, were the latest sign that Kadima can survive the loss of its leader. The party, formed in November, was widely seen as a one-man show, and political analysts questioned whether the party could still win without Sharon at its helm.

A poll conducted for Channel 10 TV and the Haaretz daily showed Kadima increasing its strength since Sharon's stroke.

It said the party, with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as its leader, would win 44 of 120 parliamentary seats, a gain of four seats from a poll conducted after last Wednesday's stroke. It also was two seats higher than its last poll with Sharon leading the party.

The dovish Labor Party would get 16 seats, down from 18 in last week's poll, and Likud would remain unchanged at 13 seats. The poll surveyed 640 eligible voters and gave no margin of error.

A second poll broadcast late Tuesday on Israel TV also had Kadima winning with 45 seats, the AP reports.


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