Electionscape: Stop telling me it's boring

Elections are not only about who wins; they also determine the quality and variety of our democracy.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
Personally, I'm fed up with hearing how boring these elections are and trying to talk some sense into friends who are planning to sit this one out. Even if Kadima's victory is a foregone conclusion and Ehud Olmert will be able to pick and choose his coalition partners, there are a number of other issues at stake. Elections are not only about who goes to sleep in the little villa on Balfour Street; they also determine the quality and variety of our democracy. Here are a number of central questions for Israeli politics that by tonight will be decided by your votes. If you've already voted, then these are some of the more interesting points to look out for tonight. What kind of new MKs will we be getting? The big question in tonight's results is, after months of haphazard polling, what size will Kadima finally end up? The main relevance is of course to coalition-building, but there is also the question of the human quality of the 17th Knesset. For possible Kadima voters there are many dilemmas. Since the lower reaches of the list were filled almost at random, there are huge differences between the caliber of the various candidates. On the one hand, it seems worthwhile voting Kadima so we can have an expert on finance and planning like No. 34, TAU lecturer Dr. Dan Ben-David, in the Knesset. On the other hand, it seems a waste if we end up voting in No. 37, Lior Karmel, whose single achievement seems to be climbing up the slippery ranks of the Scouts Movement. Will the Likud be doomed to irrelevance? A Channel 2 poll on Sunday night showed Israel Beiteinu overtaking Likud and relegating it to the fourth-largest party in the Knesset. This is only one poll - all the rest show the Likud three or four Knesset seats ahead - but the scenario does exist. And here's another one: the Likud might even go down to fifth place, after Shas. Likud's problem is that many of its votes come from the same reservoir as Shas, Lieberman and the NU-NRP. A slight mood swing in any direction can change the rankings among the right-wing parties and deal Binyamin Netanyahu an even more crushing blow. Whose head will be first on the chopping block? Everyone's talking about "the day after" for Netanyahu and Amir Peretz. But both of them, even after electoral ruin, will have at least a few months' breathing space in order to reorganize and fight off their rivals. The first leader to be pushed out might well be Meretz's Yossi Beilin, who is disliked by his entire parliamentary faction. He tried to replace them but was rebuffed by the Meretz conference. If Meretz falls beneath its poor, six-MK performance in 2003, Beilin's days are numbered; with his political eclipse, the Geneva Initiative will also be forgotten. How many votes will be wasted? The latest fashion among up-to-date, young, jaded voters is voting for the pensioners' party. Some of this week's polls have shown the party actually crossing the electoral threshold and gaining two golden-age seats. These polls are meaningless; since the samples are usually of no more than 600 respondents, 10 or 12 jokers are enough to get into the Knesset. Two weeks ago, the same pollsters were predicting a similar result for Green Leaf, the party for legalization of cannabis. I'm willing to make one prediction: no small party will make it into the Knesset. There just aren't enough people willing to take that risk with their vote. But a large number of Israelis, fed up with mainstream politics, will go for one of the half-dozen relatively high-profile small parties and do exactly that. It might be worth bearing in mind that wasted votes, according to the intricate calculation that works out the exact division of seats, favor the large parties. anshel@ejemm.com