Presidential candidates gear up for last-ditch efforts to gain votes

Peres, Rivlin, Avital to meet with undecided party factions.

man voting 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
man voting 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The three candidates for president will face their busiest day of the race on Monday, when they will make a last-ditch effort to persuade undecided factions and MKs to support them in Wednesday's election. Monday is the day of the week that factions meet and almost every MK comes to the Knesset, so Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin and Labor MK Colette Avital have a full schedule set. All three candidates are set to meet with the undecided Hadash, United Arab List and Gil Pensioners' Party factions. Avital will also address the Meretz faction. Labor MKs are not expected in the Knesset on Monday, because they will be campaigning ahead of Tuesday's Labor leadership race. The race is expected to be so close that one vote could make all the difference, so Peres's campaign is making sure that former finance minister Avraham Hirchson will come to vote, even though he has not set foot in the Knesset since he resigned from the cabinet to fight charges against him. "It will be a close race that will be decided by a small margin, so we cannot afford to be complacent," Peres's campaign strategist, Eyal Arad, said. "On paper, he has enough votes to win, but in the end, we will know who told the truth and who didn't. It's bad luck to talk about what happens if he loses. He hopes to win this time." Peres apparently picked up an additional vote over the weekend when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert persuaded National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to vote for him, despite a long-standing feud between the two over a Dead Sea project. In an effort to avoid upsetting any voters, Peres did not attend Sunday's controversial cabinet meeting on reforming the legal system. Avital continued business as usual, however, attending Sunday's session of the Knesset Law Committee. Avital has resisted pressure on her to quit the race from the Peres campaign. Avital's associates accused Peres of using her as an excuse in case he loses. Avital's strategy in the last days of the campaign will be to present herself as a protest vote for MKs who want to make a statement about the other candidates. Her associates have told MKs to vote for her instead of submitting a blank ballot. Having already met with every MK, Rivlin intends to visit two places on Wednesday that are emotional for him: The Western Wall and the grave of his father, Professor Yoel Rivlin, who ran for president in 1952 and lost.