Peres going for victory in first round
Vice Premier Shimon Peres is striving to win Wednesday's presidential election in the first round by winning over MKs who support MK Colette Avital, the Labor Party candidate.
In talks with would-be Avital voters from Labor and other parties, Peres is underscoring the importance of a decisive first-round victory by him to avoid multiple rounds. "It is important that you vote for me already in the first round," he said.
His advisers long ago realized the futility of pressuring Avital not to run. They bypassed her, opting to try to swing her supporters over to Peres. According to one Peres adviser, "the concern is that because of Avital, it will look as if Reuven Rivlin has the lead over Peres in the first round. That might lead to a trickling in his direction."
Peres' people fear complacency, so they will continue talking to MKs up to the last minute. Peres himself is shouldering most of the burden, and is said to be involved in every detail, contrary to the way he handled the race against Moshe Katsav.
"My race has gone on for a year. I've got nothing new to tell folks," Rivlin said as he heads into the final week. "I'll try not to be a bore, but it's not easy."
Rivlin will meet this week with at least three Knesset factions: the Pensioners, UAL-Ta'al and Hadash. There has been a major erosion in the support he expected from the Pensioners and Arab parties, which he will seek to stem. The Pensioners announced Friday that they will vote unanimously. Estimates put five MKs in Peres' corner, so the entire faction is likely to back him. Rivlin therefore appears in danger of losing another tie-breaking faction.
To win, Rivlin needs 25 votes from the center and left, so he'll be working to persuade MKs from Kadima, Labor, Meretz, the Pensioners and Arab parties to vote for him, even if their parties favor another.
Avital will face ceaseless pressure to withdraw her candidacy, especially if she comes in third in the first round by a wide margin.
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