- There is indifference and apathy that will result in a low voter turnout on Election Day.
- Traditional party loyalties are shifting resulting in predictable results as illustrated by the polls.
There will be a tremendous floating vote, the significance of which is unpredictable, even though the result is clear-cut. It could affect the nature of the coalition that the winning party will form in order to form a stable government.
Never in the history of the State of Israel have there been so many changes in party loyalties. Major players in both the Likud and Labor parties have changed party loyalties. Two factors are responsible for that:
- The unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the re-allocation of the Gaza Strip settlers to other areas caused a break in the Likud between those for and against the disengagement. The Likud mainstream ostracized PM Ariel Sharon for this and his position in the party became untenable. He broke away forming the Kadima party taking with him many Likud members who supported the disengagement.
- The election of Amir Peretz as Labor Party leader also caused a schism in its ranks when Shimon Peres, the veteran Labor Party leader, bolted the party for Ariel Sharon’s Kadima Party. Other veteran members such as Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik followed suit. They were not prepared to accept Amir Peretz as leader of the Labour Party. Their resignation was personal rather than ideological.
These factors sent shock waves throughout the Israeli political spectrum. This is the first time that a newly formed party composed mostly of ex Likud and Labour members have excellent chances of gaining the most seats contrary to previous mushroom parties in the past such as Dash, Third Way, Central Party and now Shinui which disappeared and will disappear into oblivion after the elections.
The issues that Israel faces are very serious indeed. It is not the purpose of this article to deal with these issues, which would involve the writing of a number of articles on each issue. The new government will have to address many issues such as peace with the Palestinians, the growing crime rate that includes organized crime, petty crime, juvenile crime, Knesset Member corruption and many others. Many of these problems had increased in their seriousness during the last Knesset. The quality of many Knesset Members had reached a new low during the 16th Knesset.
Corruption amongst some Knesset Members resulting in the conviction of two members, Omri Sharon and Noami Blumenthal and the waiting list of investigation of members such as Tzachi Hanegbi, Shlomo BenIzri and a host of others. Many of these police investigations will result in convictions.
A reason for the low voter interest is that many Israelis have lost faith in politicians and see them as corrupt individuals interested in their own interests by gaining power and cheating those who vote for them. They do not wish to exercise their basic voting right for that reason.
This is unfortunate and erodes democracy. It also shows up the weakness in Israel’s democracy, which allows for so many party lists in a clumsy proportional representation system. No party stands a chance of gaining an absolute majority under this system. As usual, there will be wheeling and dealing by the party list that gains the most seats to form a ruling, stable coalition after the elections. The result of the coalition deals will be a number of flexible compromises on ideology and promises that will leave many citizens dissatisfied as has been the case in the past. The election results after this upcoming Election Day will be no different. This creates a feeling of futility and frustration leaving an unanswered question in the minds of many of the relevance of bothering to vote.
Despite the obvious drawbacks of the Israeli electoral system, this is all that we have in order to have some influence on the nature of government we would like to see. People should be encouraged to exercise their basic right to vote. Criteria for government in many ways are personal. We can only fight corruption by choosing the parties that are untainted by the corruption brush at the ballot box.
Peace with the Palestinians is an important issue. Many view Kadima as the party that will win the elections. The coalition that it will form depends on voting patterns of the electorate. The ideology of Kadima is centre. This means that it will move to the left or right depending on its coalition partners. If there is a right wing coalition, chances of revival of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, moribund as it is today, will be even more remote. There will be no future withdrawals and the occupation will continue as well as increased defense spending to maintain it not to mention the loss of lives of our soldiers in defending settler outposts. If Labour and Meretz form the dominant, coalition parties with Kadima then the chances of peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world has a better chance of fruition. The government would be more progressive in its attitude towards social issues and civil rights for all Israel’s citizens, irrespective of their religion and creed. The extreme right wing parties are showing signs of disturbing racism towards Israel’s Arab citizens.
A government pandering to the whims of the establishment religious parties and the right wing settler movements will ruin Israel’s standing in the world as well as her credibility. It is incumbent on all citizens to exercise their vote on Election Day in order to influence the direction of Israel in the future. It should also be a vote for clean government and respect for the laws and values that we hold.