Late May Preferred Election Date, Peres Victory In Mock Vote
RAMAT GAN, Israel (AP) _ The real elections won’t be until later in the year, but Prime Minister Shimon Peres won by a landslide Tuesday in a mock vote at a high school that has accurately predicted political races for 20 years.
The vote at Blich High School has become a staple of Israeli political life.
The announcement of the results _ 61 percent for Peres, 39 percent for opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu _ was broadcast live on Israel radio.
Officials in Peres’ Labor Party were quick to claim that victory in the national elections was now assured, while Netanyahu played down the importance of the vote.
Peres, ahead in the polls, is to announce a date for elections next week. The deadline for holding the vote is Oct. 29.
Peres became prime minister after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist at a Nov. 4 peace rally.
An official close to Peres said Tuesday the prime minister wanted to hold the elections at the end of May, with May 28 being a likely date.
Labor and Netanyahu’s Likud Party will hold primaries in late March, and the campaign will last for about eight weeks, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Netanyahu, once a staunch opponent of the Israel-PLO peace accord, has been trying to soften his hard-line image in hopes of winning over centrist voters.
His new message is that while he will not tamper with Palestinian self-rule, he will be a tougher negotiator than Peres in the upcoming talks on the final status of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.