Israel Faces Unique Election

Manila Bulletin, March 24, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Israel Faces Unique Election


Byline: JEFF ABRAMOWITZ Deutsche Presse Agentur

TEL AVIV a" The current Israeli election campaign is one of the most unique the country has ever faced, with a series of dramatic events taking place in the run up to polling day, according to analysts.

The campaign got underway in November last year, when the Labor Party pulled out of Premier Ariel Sharonas ruling coalition, leaving him with a minority government.

Some weeks later, Sharon left his Likud Party in a widely- predicted move in response to party hardlinersa constant attempts to thwart his political and diplomatic initiatives. He set up the centrist Kadima faction which immediately took a commanding lead in the polls.

But on January 4 Sharon was felled by a massive hemorrhagic stroke and has remained in a coma in intensive care ever since, leaving the new party in the hands of his close ally, Acting Premier Ehud Olmert.

Another three weeks later on January 25, the Islamic militant Hamas movement swept the Palestinian legislative elections.

"If you consider everything which has happened, this is a very dramatic campaign," says Avi Diskin, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "One of the strangest campaigns in Israelas history," agrees Calev Ben-David of the Israel Project, a non-profit Israel advocacy group.

Yet despite the drama, the Israeli public, passionately volatile about elections, appears to have remained indifferent and almost apathetic to the pleadings of the politicians this time around.

Kadimaas rise and its lead in the polls are possibly the most unique aspects of the elections. Israel has witnessed center parties before, but few have captured enough support to make an impression lasting longer than one parliamentary term at most.

The case of Kadima, however, is different.

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