Likud Tells Immigrant Voters to Steer Clear of Small Parties

Jerusalem Mayor Olmert warns immigrants that small parties are exploiting their confusion over current electoral system.

The head of the Likud campaign team, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, Wednesday attacked the smaller parties for what he called their exploitation of the confusion among immigrant voters over the electoral system. According to Olmert, parties such as Yisrael b'Aliyah, Shinui and the National Union are taking advantage of this confusion to try and persuade voters that a vote for them equates to a vote for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

At a press conference yesterday, Olmert warned that only if the Likud garners enough strength in the election will it be able to ensure that it maintains control of the Interior Ministry, a key position for dealing with many of the hardships encountered by immigrants. According to Olmert, a vote for any party other that Likud is, in effect, a vote for Labor leader Amram Mitzna.

In the Likud's election propaganda aimed at immigrants, Mitzna is portrayed as "Danger No. 1" - a reworking of the "Soldier No. 1" slogan used by Ehud Barak in the 2001 prime ministerial election. Accompanying the slogan is a sketch showing Mitzna receiving a torch from Shimon Peres. The torch itself is a bomb, in the shape of Yasser Arafat's face.

Olmert also unveiled the party's new Russian-language jingle yesterday, in which voters are reminded that "Only Likud is a vote for Sharon." As the election draws ever closer, Likud's immigrant campaign team is becoming increasingly concerned by the confusion over the return to the single-vote ballot, as well as by the lack of identification between Sharon and the letters representing Likud on the ballots themselves. Danny Naveh, who heads the party's election day team, said yesterday that his team would be making every effort to ensure a large turnout among the immigrant voters.

Beefed-up budget

While the Likud is already looking ahead to election day, the Labor immigrant team yesterday decided to increase its efforts to woo Russian-speaking voters. The budget for the immigrant team has been beefed up in recent days, allowing them to distribute more copies of the party's Russian-language manifesto.

At a meeting yesterday between the head of Labor's immigrant team Shimon Peres, former party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and party secretary Ophir Pinez-Paz, it was decided that Peres will write a personal letter, in Russian, to those immigrants who joined the party, in an attempt to turn them into fieldworkers. The letter, which has yet to be formally finalized, will stress Labor's claim that the Sharon government is investing in settlements at the expense of immigrants.