Kadima, Likud Strive to Counter Voter Apathy

Olmert concerned that low voter turnout will take toll primarily on Kadima, which is counting largely on 'spontaneous voting.'

Kadima is increasingly worried about low voter turnout for the elections Tuesday, in the wake of opinion polls indicating voter apathy.

In discussions with his consultants, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed concern that a low voter turnout will take a toll primarily on Kadima, which is counting largely on "spontaneous voting," as one Olmert adviser told Haaretz. The party is afraid that those supporting Kadima in the polls may wind up thinking that the election has already been won by Kadima, and will not feel obligated to actually vote.

"A low voter turnout will make it difficult for us to form a stable coalition," Olmert said.

The campaign will therefore focus on conveying the message that the battle isn't over yet and that a strong Kadima is needed to implement its platform.

A further concern among Olmert associates is that if the gap between Kadima and the Labor Party shrinks to 10-12 Knesset seats, Kadima will be forced to give Labor chair Amir Peretz the finance portfolio.

"A ruling party must not forgo the finance portfolio," a senior Kadima member said yesterday. "But if we weaken, and Peretz insists, we will be facing a tough problem."

The Likud is also worried about the voting public's seeming lack of interest in the elections. In response, the party has decided to focus all its efforts in the time remaining on bringing back wavering Likud voters, having realized there is no longer any point in spending energy on an appeal to right-wing voters that has yielded no significant results. The object is to win between two and three Knesset seats from the pool of undecided Likud supporters, or from those who were not planning to vote at all because of disappointment in the Likud.

Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu ended his speech at a party rally for female activists yesterday by asking his audience to work to convince former Likud supporters to vote for the party.

"I am asking you to talk only to them," he said. "The [Knesset seats] are sitting at home. Go to them and ask they whether they want Kadima, because sitting at home is like voting for Kadima. Tell them that only the Likud can stop the dangerous things."

In keeping with this dictum, the last lap of Likud's campaign will employ messages such as this cry by Likud leaders: "Don't let the pollsters, the commentators make decisions for you. The elections have not been decided."