Anything Can Happen

A day before the Kadima primary, the polls continue to predict a big win for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. According to a Haaretz-Channel 10 News poll, if the primary were to be held today, Livni would take 47 percent of the vote and Mofaz would take 28 percent.

Although the gap is consistent and compatible with results from weekend surveys, it shows only the intent of those polled, rather than the ability of the campaigns to get voters to want to leave home to vote, and to drive them to the polling stations.

As far as an opinion poll goes, the vote of a grandmother from Afula is equal to that of a "vote contractor," a chairman of a workers committee with influence over 200 people and who can put them all on buses and send them to the ballot box. Thus in a probable pool of 40,000 voters (out of some 72,000 party members), the potential for error is obvious. Nevertheless, with such a large and consistent gap, the chance of error is reduced.

According to the poll, which was held Sunday by Dialog, supervised by Prof. Camil Fuchs of the Tel Aviv University's Statistics Department, the two other candidates, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter would each get 6 percent.

For now, Sheetrit and Dichter can each hope for a respectable double-digit outcome and look forward to outranking the other, placing third rather than fourth in the race.

The poll also asked respondents about the possibility of a second round. The option is purely theoretical, because it would mean that Sheetrit and Dichter together had won at least 20 percent.

Pundits frequently note that Mofaz's campaign is more organized than Livni's. The polls reflect wide support for Livni, but Mofaz has more solid clusters of support. Many of Kadima's party activists and its prominent mayors have joined up with Mofaz and are pledging to win him a large showing tomorrow.

Still, the big question is whether such a major gap, 19 percent according to the poll, can be closed by tomorrow. If the answer is yes, and Mofaz's prediction of a win by 43.7 percent turns out to be true, the conclusion is clear: Polls ahead of a primary are pointless. That pleasure can be done without in future campaigns.

Kadima is a hard nut to crack for another reason: Its members have never taken part in a democratic process. Unlike Likud and Labor, Kadima has no "history" of a primary in Kadima. The identity of the members is not clear; neither is their previous party allegiance nor their motivation and commitment to their party.

The assumption in Kadima is that the voter turnout is what will decide the day tomorrow. A high voter turnout will draw masses of Livni voters to the polls. However, a low voter turnout will strengthen Mofaz. In the Haaretz-Channel 10 News poll, 70 percent of those asked said they intended to vote. The actual voter turnout will probably not be that high. But if it even inches toward the 70-percent mark, Livni can start practicing her victory speech.

But voter turnout is usually around 50 percent, certainly true of an unexciting campaign like this one, with its lackluster candidates. With a voter turnout of 50 percent, as Mofaz's campaign hopes, anything can happen.