Jerusalem Report – Making Your Mark…Election fever.

Election fever has hit Israel, with just over two months until Israeli’s go to the polls on the 9th of April. Early snap elections have sparked much heated debate socially, as political mergers, splits and coalition talks dominate headlines. Throw in three possible corruption cases against the prime minister, and you have a recipe for a cauldron of conflicting views during any taxi ride, coffee purchase or dinner party.

One can’t help but notice how many people in Israel feel so passionately about the way the country should be run, and how vocal they are about their views. We experienced it on a far more low-key level several months ago, during mayoral elections across the country. Again, people in our city were vociferous about the best person for the job, with many unsolicited emails and SMS messages doing the rounds from various political contenders.

We were warned by many local residents that things could get ‘nasty’, with the buildup to any election here. It’s certainly not a rare phenomenon during elections in many parts of the world, but I was surprised that campaigns could stoop so far below the belt. During the mayoral races, disturbing ‘anonymous’ messages were doing the rounds, slating contenders for a range of personal reasons, including their level of religious observance or their sexual persuasion.

Now, with the political future of so many aspiring candidates in the balance, the guns are out, so to speak, as are the scandals and the accompanying social media memes. Candidates released video campaign adverts. A short while later, edited more insulting versions were re-released by rival contenders.

Of course, any coalition opportunity – the world over – sees politicians changing their tunes, as the political tides change. Those who vehemently opposed each other on certain issues suddenly contemplate joining forces. It raises questions about credibility, reliability and of course trust. It also makes one wonder about the true personal motives of some of those taking on the world of politics. Views might well change. Support for various parties will fluctuate, as we near voting day. There are many unanswered questions, with political analysts at loggerheads over what the landscape will look like in the coming months. But what is clear, is that watching the chessboard game of politics unfold in the next few weeks is going to prove very interesting, and far from dull. 

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The Secret Ballot

Another fascinating observation here, is how many people will openly ask you who you are voting for – both during local and general elections. After living and working in South Africa for many years, one issue that was always stressed ahead of any election, was the fact that your vote is secret. Especially for a journalist. I’ve often joked with my children, that its one secret a person can keep from their family! So, while I wouldn’t ever be comfortable discussing which party or candidate I would vote for during an election, I am vocal about my view that the right to vote can’t be taken for granted. Its a privilege to live in a vibrant democracy where citizens can openly disagree with one another. So, regardless of one’s political stance, I believe what is crucial, is that people go out and make their mark.

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Smile of the week – politics through the eyes of the youth. 

The prime minister announced recently he’d be making an important announcement on national television at 8pm that night, sparking much speculation over what that might be, especially with pending elections. It turns out, his announcement was connected to the state witnesses in the corruption cases against him. After the broadcast, which we watched at home, our 11-year old daughter shrugged, shook her head and said: “That’s the big announcement? I thought he was finally going to cancel school on Sundays, so we can have proper weekends”! 

We can keep hoping…

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