Kadima wins big at Blich

The legendary high-school model election yields no suprises for Olmert's party.

Kadima won an overwhelming majority at the Blich high school in Ramat Gan, where mock elections - traditionally staged several weeks before every national election - took place on Monday. Sporting Amir Peretz-like moustaches or Kadima stickers, waving Shas flags, wearing orange National Union-NRP shirts, or bearing blue-and-white Likud balloons, hundreds of students gathered just past noon in the school auditorium to hear the results of the computerized election, in which eleventh and twelfth graders had cast their vote that morning. Kadima won 36.06% of all votes, followed by Labor (18.27%), Likud (12.89%), Meretz-Yahad (8.98%), National Union/NRP (7.42%), the Green Party (6.64%), Shas (5.33%), and Shinui (4.29%). Mock elections and guest speeches by high-ranking MKs are increasingly popular in schools throughout the country - on Sunday, similar elections took place at the Hebrew University High School (commonly known as Leyada), while the Ohel Shem school in Ramat Gan also ran elections on Monday. Nevertheless, the media - as well as candidates across the political spectrum - still hold their breath for the Blich results, which have acquired a mythical status in Israeli election lore. Yet while it is true that Blich students twice predicted the outcome of the elections - in 1977 and 1992 - they have proven wrong more often than right - predicting, for instance, a Labor victory in the elections leading to both Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon's ascents to power. Nevertheless, political activists for different parties streamed to Blich Monday morning to encourage potential voters. These included both representatives of parties who participated in the elections, such as Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen, and of parties who were excluded from them. Most notable among these was Green Leaf, which last week lost its appeal to a Tel Aviv court to be included in the Blich elections. High school officials had refused to do so, citing the party's support of the legalization of certain recreational drugs. In protest against the exclusion of Green Leaf and other parties, two students set up an alternative voting station outside the school gates, where they encouraged others to vote for any of the 33 parties participating in next month's national elections. "The school argued that Green Leaf wasn't legitimate, but why weren't totally legitimate parties such as Hadash allowed to participate?" said Nadav Gilord, one of the alternative election's organizers. Prior to the election, Blich students crowded a schoolyard littered with confetti and election pamphlets, heatedly debating the merits of the parties they supported. "Look," said one Shas supporter named Matan told the Jerusalem Post, raising his shirt to show off his pierced nipple and the tattoo on his torso. "Despite all of this, my belief in religion is growing stronger." "Peretz is the only one who can change the current situation, in which there are hungry kids in this country," said Zohar Shushan, who together with other student Labor supporters handed out rolls and chocolate milk to passersby to remind them of her point. She added that both she and her family would vote for Labor after years of voting for Meretz and Hadash, because "the fact is we still have no peace." Yet some students, like ninth grader Dafna Kaufman, said she was still undecided. "Everyone sounds so convincing," she said. While Kadima released a celebratory announcement following its victory at Blich, declaring that the results there were indicative of the party's forthcoming victory in the country's national elections, Labor decried the results as reflecting the "fashionable election of a fashionable party, and Shas prided itself upon winning more than 5% during the first mock election it has participated in at the school. Green Leaf, by contrast, announced that it had won 32 mandates in the alternative election outside the school gates. Results at the Ohel Shem high school, also located in Ramat Gan, reflected a very different outcome. Kadima led and National Union/NRP received 25% of the vote, followed by Labor (16.6%), Meretz-Yahad (15%), Likud (14.1%), and Shinui (4%).