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The tight race between Likud and Kadima seemed to have bypassed Tiberias yesterday. A little over three years ago, when Kadima split off from Likud, it tore the local party branch apart, and passions ran high. But yesterday, such passions were not in evidence.

"You have to understand that people are exhausted from the last year," said Shlomi Noah, a Likud activist. "Look at how many campaigns we've had - a primary for the local branch, municipal elections, a primary for the [party's] Knesset list, and now the Knesset elections. It's too much."

Kadima activist Koby Amar agreed. "The Knesset elections don't affect people the way municipal elections do," he said. "Then, people worked really hard. Now, there is apathy."

Another Likud activist, Rafael Trabelsi, offered a different explanation. "There are no battles in the field because we control the field," he said. "In Tiberias, we are certain to win."

But whatever the reason, voter turnout in Tiberias had reached only 24 percent by about 3:30 P.M., compared to an average of 35 percent nationwide. Other northern towns, such as Kiryat Shmona and Safed, also had low turnout rates.

The unusually stormy weather seemed to generate far more interest than the election. "It's depressing," groused Mordechai Fartoush, a Likud activist who was standing at a polling station handing out Likud ballot slips to passersby. "All winter we've been praying for rain, and it had to come just on the worst possible day. Once, there would have been a long line of people on the sidewalk here, like for a rock concert."

He drove off to look for some action, but soon returned, frustrated. "People don't want to leave their houses," he said. "They say it's cold and rainy outside, and they're waiting for the storm to end."