Labor Has Slight Lead on Election Eve

The Labor Party was given a slight edge over Likod in tomorrow’s elections according to the final public opinion poll published today. The survey, by the Dahaf Public Research Institute, indicated that Labor would win 43 seats in the new Knesset to 40 for Likud. It was the first poll to show Labor ahead since the campaign began three months ago.

A poll released over the weekend by the Modin Ezrachi Co. indicated that the two major parties would run neck-and-neck. But only a week earlier, a Dahaf poll gave Likud a commanding lead of 45-39 seats.

The latest results were not broadcast today because Israeli law forbids electioneering 24 hours before the polls open. Both major parties wound up their campaigns over the weekend. Premier Menachem Begin and his top ministers addressed a mass rally in the Malchei Israel square here outside City Hall. It drew about 150,000 enthusiastic Likud supporters, about the same number that turned out for Labor’s mass rally in the same square Saturday night. Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin addressed smaller Labor rallies in the Tel Aviv suburbs last night.

Likud and Labor are each predicting victory tomorrow. Labor’s 11th hour surge in the public opinion polls is attributed to voters who have been “undecided” until now. That category has been reduced to 10 to 15 percent from over 20 percent a week ago. But according to Likud spokesmen, the so-called “floating vote” represents people who will not bother to vote.

The revival of Labor’s chances after what even its supporters concede was a lackluster campaign, was seen by political observers as a reaction to the violence in recent weeks, mainly by Likud supporters against Labor. Laborites made the most of the rowdyism that time and again disrupted its campaign rallies, charging that it was inspired by Begin’s “demagogy” and condoned by Likud.

Likud, for its part, admonished its supporters to maintain order or to stay away from the rallies of political parties they opposed. But the violence continued down to the campaign finish line. Last night the Tel Aviv office of the “Anything But Likud” group was burned down and firemen had to rescue several young Labor Party workers. The group’s purpose was to convince uncommitted voters to support Labor.

While Laborites were heartened by the last minute reversal in the opinion polls, political experts agreed that a Labor victory by two to three seats would be insufficient to unseat Likud. They noted that Begin could still form a coalition government with the support of the National Religious Party, the Aguda bloc and the ultranationalist Tehiya faction.

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