After Likud and Kadima, Labour has entered the election fray in Israel under its new leader Amir Peretz. Electors go to the polls at the end of March, and in normal circumstances Peretz might have hoped for a “honeymoon period” votes dividend, but these are far from normal times.
He finds Labour trailing in the opinion polls, along with other parties, as the new Kadima formation created by the hospitalised prime minister Ariel Sharon is benefiting from a double-whammy of novelty value, and public sympathy for Sharon. Kadima’s new leader and interim prime minister Ehut Olmert has picked up Sharon’s baton, breaking the mould of Israeli politics. Labour has had to surrender its lead of the opposition to Likud, now led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Both of the traditional parties have suffered from defections to Kadima, although Labour losing veteran Shimon Peres appears to have hurt it more. The latest polls idicate Kadima may get over 40 seats in the parliament, with both Labour and Likud less than 20 each. Labour will be hoping its new election campaign team, including former advisor to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair Stanley Greenberg, can turn its fortunes around. Meanwhile after 13 days in a coma Ariel Sharon briefly opened his eyes on Monday, although doctors are unsure what this development means. His condition remains stable, but he is still in intensive care.