Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indecision 2009: Oy Gevalt Edition

When I said in my last post that I loved Israeli elections, I wasn't being completely disingenuous in spite of the context. They are absolutely fascinating theater. Being a Jewish-Canadian, I probably follow Israeli politics a little more closely than some other countries but I challenge you to find an election with a wider variety of compelling narratives. Here is a country at war holding free and fair elections. It is a country where Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis vote and hold office. But beyond the general, there are some really fascinating story lines which have resonance beyond the ever-present military issues. You have the possible election of a female Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, in an election defined by military issues. There are a lot of people who would say that this would be an amazing feat in most countries, it's barely an issue in Israel. You have the resurrection of the political career of a man, Benjamin Netanyahu, who last held office ten years ago. Not a lot of leaders can claim to have come back from the political dead after that long out of power. There is also the collapse of the party that used to be Israel's "Natural Governing Party", Labour. Labour couldn't even win in their traditional and spiritual (spiritual, not religious) base of support: the kibbutzim. Kadima matched their support there. The story of a collapsing NGP is not uncommon. Also not uncommon is the rise of a quasi-racist party to prominence. From Denmark to the Netherlands to Switzerland we've seen these nationalist parties gain in support and the third place finish of Mr. Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu is further confirmation of this trend. Finally, the continued power of the religious right is an issue which transcends oceans. In Jerusalem, religious parties finished second and third behind Likud. The secular left, Labour, and right, Yisrael Beitenu, finished in a tie for sixth in Jerusalem. Truly fascinating and a political scientist's wet dream.

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