Labor's Fiasco / The Party Defeated Itself

Crushed, dying and now a laughingstock, the Labor Party can find only one point of solace: Things cannot, it seems, get any worse. Maybe now its luck will turn, and tomorrow night, after counting the good old paper ballots, it will find itself with an attractive, feisty list, filled with new faces, that will erase the memory of yesterday's fiasco. After yesterday, Labor needs such a list like air to breathe.

And perhaps it can also find a smidgen of comfort in the fact that even mighty America has suffered fiascoes with its voting machines - as during the presidential race in 2000, when a few thousand ballots with hanging chads in Florida determined the outcome of the race.

The computerized voting system that crashed yesterday morning immediately after being activated was supposed to have prevented the embarrassing ritual that is an ever-present part of every primary: accusations of fraud, of voting en masse by clans, of people rising from the dead to cast their ballots, of ballot boxes that mysteriously disappear. And from this standpoint, party secretary general MK Eitan Cabel's decision to switch to computerized voting was a good one. He at least tried to change the situation, and had the move succeeded, he would justly have claimed the credit. Now, however, he is obliged to take responsibility for the failure - just as he urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to do after the Second Lebanon War, when he said that Olmert should resign.

A heartwarming scene was shown on television last night: One of Labor's new candidates, former Haaretz journalist Daniel Ben Simon, met MK Ophir Pines-Paz at one of the polling stations and asked, with touching naivete: "Tell me, Ophir, can such a thing really happen?" Pines did not bother to answer. He has already seen it all.

One of Cabel's predecessors, Ra'anan Cohen, used to proclaim at every opportunity, justified or not, "The party won!" Yesterday, Labor defeated itself. The long lines at polling stations throughout the country showed that the party still has life in it, even if most of the voters were over the age of 70. The question is, how many of them will bother to turn out to vote again tomorrow? How many of the activists and volunteers who took a day off from work yesterday will do so again tomorrow? And who will benefit from a low voter turnout - the veterans or the new faces?