If you ask Minister Shaul Mofaz what time it is, he will immediately reply: A quarter past three. It is likely that if you take a look at your watch, you will notice that the time is in fact a quarter to four. When you’ll tell this to Mofaz, he will immediately correct himself: A quarter to four will be here soon, he’ll say.
So what’s better, Livni’s vague complexity or Mofaz’s shifting decisiveness? On Wednesday we’ll find out the verdict of Kadima’s registered voters. They may have forgotten this, but tomorrow they are not electing a prime minister; rather, they are electing a party leader. The winner may indeed serve as PM for some time, but he or she may also fail to form a government. In any case, he or she will have to lead the party to victory in the next general elections.
The voting patterns in the primaries are different than the ones for Knesset elections. The choice is not between different ideologies or worldviews, but rather, between the personal talents of candidates who have the same ideological home. Registered party voters are not exposed to nationally broadcasted propaganda, while familial-social influence, which plays an important role in general elections, almost does not exist when it comes to the primaries – certainly not in a young party like Kadima.
This also has direct influence on the polls – their findings only teach us about the declared preference of the voters, rather than their voting in practice. The gap between these two aspects could be deep and reflect other elements, such as the incentive for going to the polls and a last moment change of priorities, as well as manipulations and voting day organizational abilities. It is difficult to leave one party in favor of another one, but it is relatively easy to shift from one candidate to another within the same party.
‘Yes and no’ party
In some polls, an effort was made to overcome the high percentage of those refusing to answer by asking indirect questions and resorting to intelligent guesses. This method worked in Knesset election polls, when pollsters gathered plenty of information in advance based on past voting patterns. However, such data is absent in the case of the Kadima primaries: Here there are no precedents and no voting patterns. The camps within the party are temporary and the lines are blurred. Everything if fluid.
Kadima defines itself as a centrist party and makes pretenses of being the home party of the Israeli middle class, most of which is apolitical, or at least non-ideological. This middle class is angry, embittered, and very unsatisfied with the state of affairs in the country. It wants change, rather than revolutions or mumbled words.
Had Netanyahu not pulverized the term “reform,” we could have said that the Israeli middle class desires a reformist party; a reform in the system of government, a reform in bureaucracy, a reform in law enforcement, and a reform in the relationship between the government and citizens. For some reason, we have not seen Tzipi Livni or Shaul Mofaz place these or similar reforms at the top of their agendas. None of them have a reformist agenda; not even a reformist discourse.
Polish leader Lech Walesa expressed his attitude to controversial issues by saying he was in favor, but actually against. After one term as president, the “centrist” Walesa won one percent of the vote in the next elections. A similar fate awaited other large centrist parties in Israel: They evaporated after one electoral achievement. Kadima won’t survive either if it becomes a party of “in favor, but actually against” or a “yes and no” party.