Labor Says High Concentration of Voters Choosing Pensioners

If elected, Olmert likely to invite Labor and Shas to join coalition; constellation would allow Olmert to move ahead with unilateral evacuation of settlements in the W. Bank.

Labor Party officials reported on Tuesday that much of the party's competition in Tel Aviv polling stations was coming from the previously inocuous Pensioners party, rather than from Kadima.

Shelly Yachimovitch, campaign head for Labor's Tel Aviv office, said on Tuesday she had noticed a pattern at Tel Aviv stations of people choosing to vote this year for Pensioners.

"I found myself convincing people to switch their vote from Pensioners to Labor, rather than from Kadima to Labor," she said. "I am trying to tell people that it is a pity to waste their vote on a cat in the bag."

MK Isaac Herzog, head of Labor's volunteer staff, said he had also received reports of mass Pensioner activity in the center of the country.

Herzog also expressed concern for the large number of people coming out to vote for Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. "They're coming to the polls like soliders to a bus. There is no doubt they are proving huge organizational strength."

Labor officials also expressed optimism that the low voter turnout this year would be to its benefit and to the detriment of Kadima.

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz voted in Sderot on Tuesday morning and then declared, "We have already won."

Peretz and his wife Ahlama voted at 10 A.M. in his western Negev hometown surrounded by a bevy of journalists and Labor supporters.

"We have already won. We understood the struggle for an ideological debate on the worth of man, the right to earn a living with respect. We had an excellent campaign," Peretz said.

Peretz also visited the Negev towns of Ashdod and Netivot as part of his election day tour. He said he was pleased to note in Ashdod the low number of Labor voting slips, indicating that a high number of people had voted for the party.

He nevertheless refused to offer a prediction of the elections outcome or his thoughts regarding victory or defeat.

The Labor leader, meanwhile, told Haaretz on Monday that "under no circumstances" will he form a government with the Likud and the right-wing parties, even if he is offered the post of prime minister, and even if he is promised support in passing the socioeconomic laws he has been touting.

Labor contender Professor Avishai Braverman, after casting his ballot at a Tel Aviv polling station on Tuesday, said, "We will beat the polls. This is an election between Labor, who will worry about the citizen, and Bibi [Netanyahu] and Olmert, who will worry about the higher echelons."

If the opinion polls are correct, then Ehud Olmert will be asked to form the next government and he will likely turn to the Labor Party and Shas, and then maybe to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Meretz as well.

This constellation would allow Olmert to move ahead with a unilateral evacuation of isolated settlements in the West Bank, with the main bone of contention being the distribution of ministerial portfolios and economic policy.

Another, less likely, possibility is that Olmert would forge a coalition with the right-wing National Union and Yisrael Beiteinu factions, along with Shas and UTJ. In this case, Olmert would find it difficult to implement a withdrawal.

A third option, also considered improbable, is for Olmert to put together a kind of national unity government including Labor and Likud. However Kadima will find it hard under these circumstances to create common ground between Labor and Likud on economic and political issues. It is also difficult to imagine Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu joining an Olmert-led government.

If, however, the Likud performs poorly at the polls and Netanyahu steps down and Silvan Shalom replaces him, Likud might then cooperate with Kadima.

For their part, leading Likud candidates, including Netanyahu, manned the phones at party headquarters in Tel Aviv in a last-ditch effort to convince former party supporters to return home. The effort highlighted the Likud's decline as it goes from being a ruling party to one fighting to defend its relevance.

"I think everything is open," Netanyahu said Monday. "The elections have not been decided. If members of the nationalist camp go out and vote, the picture will change. Our struggle right now is for the Likud voters to get out of their homes."

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