Monday, September 22, 2008
Voting for Nobody
This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 18 January 2001
As most of the world knows by now, we in Israel have a special election coming up on February 6th. We will be voting to determine who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel. Of course, the outcome will have a much larger impact than that. Leaving aside the domestic ramifications, many of which are tied to the political alliances between each of the two main parties (Labor and Likud) and the remaining minority parties (currently there are approximately 14), let's focus on the most critical repercussion. Plenty of people are saying that a vote for Ariel Sharon is like asking for a war, even though the ubiquitous billboards and television ads promoting him claim that Sharon will bring a "secure peace." Naturally, many others insist that a vote for Ehud Barak is an endorsement of the division of Jerusalem, something that is anathema to almost all Israelis.
On a lighter note, after the debacle that was Election 2000 in America, most folks here are delighted to know that we need not fear the chad problem or malfunctioning butterflies. The voting method in Israel is just about as simple as it can be. The voter goes to the polling place (usually a school - election day, by the way, is always a special day off from work and school) and checks in, receives an envelope, and enters the voting booth. There the voter finds, resting on a table, a large divided tray. In each compartment is a stack of papers. In this election, for example, one stack will bear the name Ehud Barak, another stack that of Ariel Sharon. There will undoubtedly be, as there always is, a stack of blank white papers. And therein lies our own source of a potential brouhaha. In the past, people have used the white paper (called "petek lavan" in Hebrew) to do one of two things. They either write in the name of their choice, or they simply insert a blank slip into their envelope, and drop that in the voting box as they exit the polling place.
Many people have stated that they will either skip voting altogether, or they will make use of the white paper. They hope thereby to register their aversion to both candidates, and what they stand for. There is even a small group of people (mainly habitues of an upscale pub in Tel Aviv) who swear they intend to write in Bill Clinton's name on their white paper. But the fact is, unless some statistician counts up those white papers, the only thing they will accomplish is to fill up the trash cans. The only votes that will be counted on February 6th are those for the two candidates. If two million people vote, but of those only 250 vote for Sharon and 251 for Barak, with the rest white papers, then Barak will win. Simple.
As of today, Sharon has a large lead in the polls. And while I deplore the idea of voting for Barak, a non-vote will be, in effect, a vote for Sharon. That is something I cannot, in good conscience, do. I shudder to think what will become of this country if Barak is re-elected, but under his leadership I have less fear of the current and ongoing violence escalating into a full-fledged war. Sharon may claim to have turned a new leaf, but no one truly believes that. He is merely a steadfast hawk in temporary dove's plumage. Since I have no wish to send my husband, brothers in law, and friends off to fight in a war, it seems I will have to overcome my inclination to vote for nobody.
** NOTE: the graphic above says "Nobody for Prime Minister"
(c) Amy Samin