Peres, Braverman hit the clubs to court new voters

There are 300,000 new voters for the March election whose allegiances are perceived to be up for grabs.

dignified peres 298 88aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
dignified peres 298 88aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
When she slipped on her "come hither" dress, Sarit Plais hoped she would find "a nice catch" at the club Thursday night - she had no idea that catch might be Shimon Peres. Eighty-two-year-old Peres, the number two in the Kadima party and most veteran politician vying for the March elections was out Thursday night, club hopping with young Jerusalem in the hopes of attracting new voters to Kadima. Across town, Labor's Avishay Braverman had the same idea in mind when he visited bars in Jerusalem's Zion Square. As the former president of Ben Gurion University, Braverman has had his fare share of experience with young people in Israel. "Labor is prime for attracting new voters," said Braverman, who also heads the campaign drive to attract young voters. "We have fresh new ideas that would appeal to young voters." Final borders, socio-economic policy, and corruption free government may be the focus of campaign promises, but when it comes to first time voters, campaign officials from across the political spectrum said they were constantly questioning how to market themselves. Take, for instance, Arnon Shalgi who said he would cast his vote in the upcoming elections over the issue of cellular antennas. "It may sound silly but it really directly affects my life, my community," said Shalgi. "I checked the history of particular MKs, and I'm voting Meretz because they seem to care the most." Shalgi added that he does not consider himself particularly liberal, but he will vote for a left-wing party regardless. Voters such as Shalgi are keeping the "new voter" election beds of the major parties busy, trying to predict how they will vote and what type of campaign will best attract them. The constituents they are targeting have no certain age, race, or economic standing. They are simply termed 'new voters" and in the upcoming election they will number 300,000 according to data compiled by the Interior Ministry. "These are people that, for one reason or another, have never registered to vote before," explained an Interior Ministry official. "Many are new immigrants, or youths that have recently come of voting age. People register for different reasons, we don't keep statistics on the individuals though." Over 5 million people have registered to vote in the upcoming elections, and while the new voters represent a relatively small fraction, less than 17 percent, they tend to have less party loyalty and are therefore more open to persuasion, say various election heads. Before sending Peres out to dance the night away, Kadima candidate Marina Solodkin said that the "new voter" division of Kadima had done studies and led panels in high schools to study their appeal. "For Kadima as well, this election will be a 'first time,'" said Kadima candidate Leor Karmel. "Kadima is actually a microcosm of Israel, therefore we have greater appeal." While the immigrant constituency has generally been easier to target, the number of immigrants that register as "new voters" tends to be deceptively small, said Solodkin. "Many people wait several years before registering to vote, in that time their interests may change," said Solodkin. For Elisha Gottstein, a 20-year-old soldier, the decision for whom he would vote had little to do with catchy campaigns. "Generally I would vote with Likud, but Bibi [Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu] has broken his promises in the past," said Gottstein. Instead, he will vote for the National Religious Party, whom he feels are right wing, "but not so right wing that they won't join the coalition."