Peres announces his presidential candidacy - but can Kadima get a majority?
"This is not just a presidential election, it's much more," said Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik at the Kadima Knesset faction meeting yesterday. Interior Minister Roni Bar-On said former prime minister Ariel Sharon took to power the day the Likud faction, with 19 seats in the Knesset, saw its candidate, Moshe Katsav, elected to the presidency. This argument will be used to pressure Kadima lawmakers to vote for Shimon Peres.
The most important statement in Peres' announcement of his candidacy was: "Perhaps this is my last contribution." Thus, "we can't do that to Shimon" will provide the pressure to vote for Peres. In the letter MK Reuven Rivlin sent yesterday to the MKs, he warned against turning the presidency into political compensation for past disappointments.
Former coalition chair Avigdor Itzchaky said yesterday that if Peres had Shas, Rivlin needed 22 or 23 votes from the center and the left, which he is unlikely to attain. If Shas pulls for Rivlin, he will need 10 votes, which will not be difficult to nab. Shas is said to be leaning toward Peres, but will not announce its intentions until the last minute.
The Pensioners Party was going to allow its faction members to vote their conscience. Instead, the faction said this week that it would determine together whom to vote for, and would postpone the decision until the week of the election. It is difficult not to interpret this move as a call to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - make us an offer.
It may be assumed that all six United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MKs will be voting for Rivlin. The ultra-Orthodox public, with its many specific needs, does not approach the presidency as a matter of principle. If Olmert tries hard enough, a UTJ source says, he can get at least some ultra-Orthodox MKs to vote for Peres.
The Rivlin camp believes the Arab lawmakers are on his side. However, the Arab parties are leaning toward the moderate MK Colette Avital.
Peres ended his statements to the faction by saying "the president does not have many powers, but he has the authority to do good deeds and give voice to an enthusiastic nation."
It can certainly be assumed that the former minister for regional cooperation, who became the minister of the Negev and the Galilee, has gained much experience in recent years in offices with little power that give voice to an enthusiastic nation.