Monday, November 21, 2005

The elections to watch

It looks like Israel will be having elections around March 21 or March 28 of this year. This will be extremely interesting elections to follow where anything can happen.

The direct impetus to the election has been the election of a fanatic left wing union leader as the head of Israel's Labor party. Amir Peretz (Israel’s Mark Latham) has always put self-interest first, and believes that early elections will give him a chance to ride on the wave of euphoria that has gripped some Israeli circles. This man has cost the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of dollars (through frequent infrastructure strikes) and intends to run on a socialist platform, aiming to attract North African voters from Likud and Shas. (Incidentally, Shas will retaliate by attempting to capitalise heavily on the popularity of its former leader Aryeh Deri – who served three years for a bribery conviction).

Amir Peretz will fail in this mission. Ariel Sharon, however, may not.

He is by far the most popular Israeli prime minister in a decade, if not longer - and he now can count on his personal popularity to break his ties with the party he created and its oppressive central committee (where is archrival Netanyahu pulls the strings). While his last such attempt at breaking from the likud with the establishment of ShlomZion (lit. peace in Zion) failed, Sharon stands a far better chance now. Each of the 10-14 sitting parliamentarians (MKs) who cross the floor to run with Sharon bring with the 1.15 Mil in election funding according to Israeli election funding rules - that's good news for a party with no infrastructure and little air time.

Aside from taking a third a third of sitting Likud MKs, Sharon's party has attracted two talented Labour MKs - Dalia Itzik and Haim Ramon. Unfortunately, the most talented politican in the house, Shimon Peres, seems to be staying at home for now (Hopefully, he will cross the floor after the elections).

What’s left of the Likud will be a party full of leaders with no followers. Of the long list of leadership challengers, Netanyahu is the man to beat. The defence minister Mofaz is the challenger to watch (as a non-parliamentarian over the past couple of years, he has has attended the Bar Mitzva ceremony’s of the sons of every swinging central committee member. Will the bad food and music pay off?! Probably not. Will Mofaz then accept Sharon’s offer and cross over to the new party?! Maybe.

Whatever happens, these elections are extremely important and hopefully will come up with a viable alternative to the right and left. My two cents: this alternative party will play its function in the next term of Knesset, then amalgamate and disappear back into the Likud : Labor paradigm. The binary adversarial model is just too damn sexy.

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