March 28th, 2006 is a landmark day for Israel. The Israelis are electing the parliament of the 17th convocation today. The elections are being held ahead of the scheduled term, although the people of Israel are used to this practice. Kadima, the centrist party that was established only last year, has all chances to win in the vote. This is a peculiar feature of the current elections in Israel: previously, the political struggle in the State of Israel was taking place between the rightist and leftist forces.
All previous attempts to set up a strong centrist party have brought no results in the country. However, the results of sociological research show that Kadima has shoved aside both the rightist Likud and the leftist Avoda. The most unusual aspect about the elections is the fact that Kadima’s leader Ariel Sharon, 78, is still staying in a coma.
Ariel Sharon, the living legend of the Israeli political life, left Likud in November of the last year and set up a centrist organization, subsequently named as Kadima. Nobel Prize laureate Shimon Peres, 82, joined Sharon in less than a year when he lost the elections in Avoda. Nevertheless, Ariel Sharon will not be able to enjoy the victory of his party. The Israeli prime minister was hospitalized with a massive stroke on January 4 and never came out of his coma ever since.
Kadima was chaired by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (60). His companion in the new party, the person, who ranks second on Kadima’s pre-election list, Shimon Peres, said that Olmert would continue doing the work started by Sharon. According to latest polls, Kadima may win 35 mandates in the 120-seat parliament. The party’s rating, however, started declining one week before the voting. A low turnout may also deprive Kadima of a certain number of mandates.
In addition to Kadima, there are 30 other political organizations willing to get some seats in the Israeli parliament, Knesset. Only nine of them will be able to overcome the minimum two-percent limit. It is worthy of note that many Israelis are quite uncertain about their political decision. Twenty-two percent of the polled said that they did not know who they were going to vote for at the elections. The poll was conducted yesterday, only one day before the voting.
Israel’s largest parties, Avoda and Likud, turned to history. Avoda compared its leader, Amir Peres to the founder of the Jewish State, David Ben-Gurion. Avoda’s TV advertisement says that Amir Peres was not a general: “He was born in a small provincial town, chaired a trade union of workers and spoke funny English.” Such an advertisement brings tears to the eyes of sentimental voters. Avoda has chances to win 18 mandates.
Likud in its turn paid attention to the events of 1981 when party leader Menahem Begin urged the people of Israel to vote for Likud. The appeal influenced electors at that time, in spite of the fact that all forecasts predicted Avoda’s victory. As a result, Likud won 48 mandates whereas Avoda enjoyed 47. Likud used excerpts from Menahem Begin’s speech during the current campaign. However, the method has had no positive results on the party rating.
The pre-election programs of Israel’s rightist parties were based on the criticism of Likud’s leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Despite his rightist political views, Netanyahu supported Sharon’s initiative to pull Jewish settlements from Gaza Strip.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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