Likud MKs launch campaigns ahead of early elections, sources say (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Ophir Bar-Zohar 05/03/12)
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Likud MKs have already begun their primary campaigns, sources within
the party said on Wednesday, ahead of early elections set to take
place later this year.
Each is trying to forge deals with other MKs whereby both sides would
urge their supporters to vote for the other in the primary.
The comments were made as majority of the Knesset agreed that next
election will take place on Tuesday, September 4.
As a result, the Knesset is expected to vote to dissolve itself next
week, with the dissolution taking effect the following Sunday less
than two weeks after the summer session began.
Likud, Labor and Shas all backed the September 4 date, while Yisrael
Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman said he would have been happy
with an even earlier date.
The parties that are unhappy with the election being held so soon are
Kadima, which only recently chose a new leader and is sinking in the
polls, and United Torah Judaism. The big gainers in the next election
are likely to be Labor and Yair Lapid´s new party, which are expected
to split the voters fleeing from Kadima.
Speaking to Haaretz on Wednesday, Likud sources said the battle is
particularly intense for the coveted top slot on the Knesset list,
with Sa´ar and four other ministers, Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon,
Silvan Shalom and Yisrael Katz all seeing themselves as contenders.
"They all have large egos, and will do everything possible to trip
one another up," said one.
Kahlon, who is very popular with both Likud members and the general
public, is viewed as aparticularly dangerous threat by the others.
Katz, a veteran union leader popular with organized labor, also has a
broad support base, so many MKs would be happy to strike a deal with
The settlers are another significant voting bloc, and many Likud MKs
are courting them. That leaves MKs on the party´s left flank, like
ministers Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, feeling the heat, because
settlers and their supporters won´t back them in the primary.
The primary is expected to be held next month, and will apparently
revert to using pape rballots. The last primary used computerized
voting, but the system´s slowness resulted in long lines that
discouraged many people from casting a ballot.
While some slots on Likud´s Knesset slate are chosen via a nationwide
primary, others are reserved for specific constituencies (like new
immigrants) or specific geographic districts.
Netanyahu is now seeking to increase the number of slots awarded
nationally, since nation wide voting favors incumbent MKs, who have
Speaking at the Knesset on Wednesday, Education Minister Gideon Sa´ar
mocked Kadima´s stance in a speech to the Knesset plenum
yesterday. "Is there any place else in the world where the opposition
fights with all its migh tto postpone elections?" he asked. "You´ve
been in opposition for three and a half years, and you´re still not
ready. My advice is that you start acting like an opposition in the
few days you have left."
In response, MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) accused Likud of "thumbing its
nose at democratic procedure" because Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu "fears that Lieberman will catch up with him. And we´re all
paying the price".
Kadima later said in a statement that while it would prefer a mid-
October date, it will support any motion to advance the election.
But MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said openly what many MKs were
thinking: "If you held a secret ballot, 118 [of the 120] MKs would
vote against early elections."
MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) informed the plenum that his party
would run a joint slate with Habayit Hayehudi in the next election.
Also Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak´s Atzmaut party held a
press conference to announce that it will run in the next election as
an independent party. He thereby sought to squash speculation that it
would be absorbed into Likud.
"We came here to refute the rumor that we aren´t running, a rumor
that serves several people who apparently fear sobriety and
responsibility at the helm," Barak said. "We are surrounded by a
storm the likes of which we haven´t seen in decades. In my
experience, a responsible and steady hand on the wheel is needed at
such times, and I have such a hand."
Referring to polls showing that Atzmaut won´t earn enough votes to
get into the next Knesset, Barak said, "I don´t put a lot of faith in
them. I suggest you consider where Kadima was [in the polls] three
months ago and where it is now, as well as the disconnect between wha
tappears in the polls and what actually happens in the elections."
Industry Minister Shalom Simhon chimed in, "Everyone can see the
alternative. Do we want to see Lieberman as defense minister, or have
Atzmaut is not planning to hold a primary; Barak will choose its
Knesset slate himself.
Kadima MKs are also fearful of their political future, as many almost
certainly won´t be reelected. Party sources predicted that some would
ditch Kadima to form a new party with its former leader, Tzipi Livni,
who lost the chairmanship to Shaul Mofaz in March. But others said no
one was likely to leave until after the party´s primary, because
those who place high on the list won´t want to bet their future on a
The official pretext for calling new elections was the coalition´s
inability to agree on are placement for the Tal Law, which governs
draft deferrals for yeshiva students. The law was recently overturned
by the Supreme Court and was supposed to expire on August 1. Now,
however , it will apparently be extended until January, three months
after the next Knesset is sworn in.
Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon explained that the Knesset´s
dissolution essentially freezes all existing legislation even laws
declared unconstitutional because no new legislation can be passed
to replace them. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/03/12)
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