Labor Party and Likud Skirmish over Date of Knesset Elections

Labor and Likud have begun skirmishing for advantage in arranging the upcoming Knesset elections.

Labor has introduced a bill to separate the Knesset and municipal elections, which traditionally are held concurrently.

The Laborites argue that voters should not be required to decide weighty national issues, such as the future of the administered territories, while mulling over such mundane matters as “sewage and garbage collection.”

Labor would postpone the elections for mayors and town council members for a half year. Likud, which believes it would benefit from simultaneous national and local elections, countered by proposing that the Knesset balloting, scheduled for Nov. 1, be advanced to this August.

Labor balked, because a good many of its voters vacation abroad in August. Observers note that for some reason, that is not the case with Likud supporters. In recent years, Likud has relied increasingly on the working-class vote. Israel has no absentee ballots.

As the fight shaped up in the Knesset this week, Labor’s proposals were supported by the leftist Mapam and Citizens Rights Movement, as well as the more centrist Shinui party.

The National Religious Party, whose vote is often pivotal when the two major parties are deadlocked, said it would back Labor against an advanced election date.

NRP spokespersons said they wanted to see the Labor-Likud national unity government serve out its full term, which expires Nov. 1.

Likud, for its part, has been unable to rally its traditional right-wing allies. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party was expected to vote against the Likud initiative. The far right-wing Tehiya party has delayed a debate on the matter, though it has been in favor of early elections.

Knesset observers predicted Tuesday that unless the coalition partners reach a compromise, the elections will be held Nov. 1, as scheduled.

But separating them from local balloting is another matter. A motion to postpone municipal elections would have to go through an arduous parliamentary process, giving Likud ample opportunity to delay or kill the motion.

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