Analysis: The man who won't be voting

Sharon, who was the embodiment of Kadima and in whose image the party was created, lies in hospital.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 17, 2008 00:14
2 minute read.
sharon walking 298

Sharon sits down 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Some 74,000 Kadima members are eligible to vote at polling stations across the country in Wednesday's primary that will elect the party's third chairman in its less than three years of existence. However, the man who was the embodiment of Kadima and in whose image the party was created will continue to lie silently in his hospital bed at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. Kadima's founder, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, will not be voting in Wednesday's primary. Just as he never chose a successor, he will not be able to choose his successor's successor. If Sharon were aware of the primary, chances are he would be surprised by the candidates' identities. He never spoke about a successor and he often mocked the people who saw themselves as such, perhaps because he thought he would be in power forever. It is likely that he would also be surprised to see that the party that was formed with a promise to be different was electing a new leader using the same primary system, vote contractors and mass-membership drives that marred the images of Likud and Labor. Most of Sharon's former advisers will be working for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday. His son, former MK Omri Sharon, will be voting for her but has insisted that he has not taken an active role in promoting her candidacy. A couple of lower-level Sharon confidants support Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. His veteran spokesman Ra'anan Gissin endorsed Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. But the only true remaining imprint of Sharon on the party is his picture in posters at the party's headquarters and all of its branches. The second Kadima leader, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, will not even have that. His likeness will likely be removed from the walls of the party's institutions soon after the votes are counted. Livni has talked about Olmert's tenure as head of the party as an aberration and speaks at length in her campaign events about restoring Kadima to what it was initially intended to be. Mofaz, by contrast, has made a point of showing respect to Olmert out of fear of upsetting thousands of Kadima members who still revere the current prime minister. And yet, despite all the animosity between Olmert and Livni it is not clear who the prime minister will be voting for when he stands behind the screen in Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon. Olmert kept his promise to stay out of the race, even though it looked at first like he supported Mofaz and at one point in the race, the Hebrew press suggested that he backed Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit. Perhaps the proverbial fly on the wall at the polling station might be surprised to see Olmert actually voting for Livni. He is convinced that she, unlike Mofaz, will not be able to form a new government, which could allow Olmert to stay in power until as late as April, after a new government could be formed following a general election. Olmert's vote does not count any more than those of the other 74,000 Kadima members. But at least he will have the ability to cast a ballot and choose a successor. Sharon was denied that, but he will be with the Kadima members as they vote at party branches.

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