Cheshin: Mitzna, Livni Interviews Broke Electioneering Law

Shas wants plug pulled on all politicians; CEC to hear petition against Ovadia Yosef for propaganda.

Television interviews given by Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna and Likud Minister Tzippi Livni on Wednesday night contravened the law banning electioneering in the 60 days before elections take place, Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Mishael Cheshin said Thursday.

"The two items touched on forbidden election propaganda, albeit briefly," Cheshin said of Mitzna's nine-minute appearance and Livni's six-minute slot on Channel One's "Erev Hadash" (New Evening) program.

Shas wants plug pulled on all politiciansThe Shas representative on the Central Elections Committee, Yehuda Avidan, on Thursday asked Justice Cheshin to order a halt to all live interviews with politicians, especially candidates running in the elections.

In its petition, Shas asked Cheshin to instruct Channel One, Channel Two, Army Radio, Israel Radio, Reshet, Keshet, Telad, Channel 10 and local radio stations, to cease airing interviews with politicians, who, the party claimed, "pepper everything they say with transparently illegal propaganda."

A date for the hearing has yet to be set.

CEC to hear petition against Ovadia YosefOn Friday, the CEC will discuss a petition filed by Shinui lawmaker Yossi Paritzky, against the satellite broadcast of a weekly sermon by the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Claiming that these broadcasts are in fact election propaganda, Paritzky is demanding that the CEC deduct time from the allocated broadcasting time given to Shas, as well as imposing a hefty fine.

The discussion will go ahead after Paritzky - at the behest of CEC chair Mishael Cheshin - watched a video of Yosef's sermon, and reached the conclusion that it was, indeed, propaganda.

Cheshin rejects Sharansky charge of overstepping mandateIn a letter to Yisrael b'Aliyah Chairman Natan Sharansky, Cheshin rejected the MK's charges that he is overstepping his mandate with decisions in regard to the upcoming elections, Israel Radio reported Thursday.

In the letter, Cheshin writes that he acts in a manner independent from outside influence and that he does not take orders from anyone. His decisions regarding upholding the laws regarding the elections are based on legal considerations alone, he also writes.

Cheshin's letter was in response to a letter sent by Sharansky on Wednesday calling on the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak, "to act at once to reduce the involvement of [Central Elections Committee Chairman] Justice Mishael Cheshin in the current election campaign."

In his letter to Barak, which Sharansky describes as "an urgent emergency call," the housing and construction minister criticizes Cheshin for what he calls "excessive and irregular activity," which, he claimed, hurt the image of the Supreme Court in particular and democracy in general.

"The debates on substantive issues have been sidetracked by treacherous elements," wrote Sharansky, "while Justice Cheshin, without any malicious intuitions, is being used by them." Sources close to Sharansky say that "Cheshin gives the clear impression that he enjoys his standing in the center of the political stage, and his entire demeanor shows how far to the left he is."

Sharansky's criticism of Cheshin drew both positive and negative responses and counter-responses. Shinui lawmaker Avraham Poraz said that "Sharansky is still living in the communist era of the Soviet Union and his mentality is that of a Soviet prison. He has become a collaborator with the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, against the interests of the immigrant population."

Sharansky's party colleague Yuli Edelstein describe Poraz's comments as "racist. Shinui members should think twice before preaching democratic values to a man like Sharansky, who sacrificed years of his life to fight a cruel and dictatorial regime."