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Shas promises supporters it will remain in gvn't
By JEREMY SHARON
01/22/2013
Haredi MKs in broad tour of ultra-Orthodox strongholds to boost turnout.
 
Shas triumvirate leader Arye Deri expressed satisfaction and optimism with his party’s exit poll results on Tuesday evening, and promised to protect the weak sectors of society who Shas has campaigned for in the coming government.

Exit polls predicted 10-13 seats for the party, which currently holds 11 Knesset mandates.

Deri also roundly denounced Haim Amsalem and Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak for running against Shas and accused their respective parties, Am Shalem and Koah Lehashpia, of causing Shas to drop two seats, despite the fact they neither of them passed the electoral threshold.

“This was the hardest campaign Shas has ever faced but we have proved that we are the most stable party of government and that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the leader of Sephardi Jewry in Israel and around the world,” Deri declared. “We will represent the weak in society in the next government regardless of sectoral considerations. Poverty has no color and poverty has no kippa,” he continued, emphasizing Shas’ campaign message of protecting the poor from budget cuts in the next government.

Earlier on Tuesday, haredi politicians from both Shas and United Torah Judaism took to the streets of ultra-Orthodox strongholds in a final and massive effort to get out the vote amid concerns for their electoral showing.

MKs from UTJ were especially active, traveling around the country to the party’s regional headquarters in cities such as Elad, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Illit, Bnei Brak and beyond, to help boost the ultra-Orthodox turnout and the haredi parties’ share of the vote.

At the same time, the haredi politicians issued dire warnings throughout the day about the consequences for the ultra-Orthodox world if there was not high voter participation in the community.

Before the exit polls were announced, Deri sounded uncharacteristically doubtful that his party would emerge with any significant electoral gains.

“I believe we will see an increase [in Knesset seats for Shas], any increase will be an achievement,” he said. “It must be remembered however that we have two parties competing with us who will not pass the electoral threshold but will eat into our share of the vote by almost two mandates,” he explained earlier on Tuesday, referring to the new Am Shalem and Koah Lehashpia Parties.

UTJ party chairman Yisrael Eichler said he was worried about “the increased turnout in non-religious areas” while visiting the party’s headquarters in the haredi city of Elad.

“This shows that the main issue in this election is not diplomatic, security or economic or security concerns but that there is a war against God and his Torah.”

Speaking on haredi radio station Kol Hai, Eichler went further and said that possible changes to the electoral system that may be advanced in the coming Knesset would greatly reduce the political power of the haredi parties, imposing even greater obligations on the community to come out and vote.

The haredi rabbinic and political leadership has repeatedly declared this election to be a time of religious emergency due to proposed legislation they see as threatening to the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and interests.

One of their principle issues of concern is proposed legislation to rescind the mass exemptions from military service which full-time yeshiva students were able to claim until last August.

During his Election Day campaign tour, UTJ MK and Deputy Education Minister Menachem Eliezer Moses said the election was “a critical time which will determine the future of the haredi community,” while senior party MK and Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni said that every haredi person must vote.

“This is a fateful election, no one can stay at home,” he declared.

Meanwhile, former MK and UTJ’s third-placed candidate Meir Porush had a busy day touring Elad, Rehovot, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat; Gafni visited Modi’in Illit and Elad; Deputy Health Minister and UTJ MK Yaakov Litzman went to drum up the vote in Rishon Lezion and Kiryat Sanz in Netanya; Mozes toured Kiryat Gat and Modi’in Illit; while UTJ fourth-placed candidate Uri Maklev dropped in on Ramat Beit Shemesh and Rehovot to boost haredi turnout.

The rabbinic leadership of the haredi world was also active Tuesday. Shas spiritual leader, the 92- year old Yosef, was up early in the morning to cast his vote and broadcast an Election Day message on Facebook.

“We should all vote to strengthen the Torah, to strengthen Judaism and the Jewish people,” said Yosef, who suffered a mild stroke last week. “I turn to the Sephardim in particular to say to all who love the Torah that everyone should go and vote for the Shas movement and fulfill the commandment of strengthening the Torah.”

Spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi haredi non-hassidic world, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, 98, fasted all day and recited psalms for the success of UTJ at the polls, while 85 year-old Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, perhaps the second most respected rabbi in the haredi community, voted in his home town of Bnei Brak just after 7 a.m.
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