"Six seats would be a success, three a failure," said Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael b'Aliyah's number two, just two and a half hours before the exit polls Tuesday. Either he was relying on gut instinct, or he had received news from his activists in the field.
However 20 minutes after the TV exit polls were suggesting that Yisrael b'Aliyah had managed only three seats in the 16th Knesset, Edelstein was attempting to explain the performance, blaming the particularly low turnout among the party's traditional immigrant constituency, and the generally poor voter turnout. (With all the votes counted, Yisrael b'Aliyah did even worse than the exit polls had predicted, ending up with only 2 seats.)
According to reliable sources, hundreds if not thousands of immigrants had put two slips in the ballot envelope - one for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and one for Natan Sharansky. Possibly they were confused, forgetting that the electoral system had reverted to the status quo ante, or maybe they just wanted to identify with both the right and the immigrant party. Whatever the reason, these votes are not valid.
"We should take into account that not a few immigrants worked today in order to earn a living, and possibly many of them couldn't be bothered to go and vote," added Edelstein.
Particularly disappointed was number five Eli Kazhdan. Kazhdan, who grew up in Boston and led the party's campaign among the English-speaking community, was also aware of voter apathy, even in Yisrael b'Aliyah's usual stronghold of Ashdod. He also blamed low voter turnout.
Party leader and Russian hero Natan Sharansky turned up Tuesday at the campaign festivities in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Tel Aviv, hoarse from shouting. He called on the party faithful to remain optimistic, thanked them all for their work and promised that the party leaders would convene to discuss their next steps. He then hurried away without answering questions.
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