The seeming electoral loss for Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party left the party’s campaign headquarters nearly empty on Tuesday night after exit polls were broadcast at 10 P.M.
With no one to interview, television hosts were forced to mostly talk to themselves. Broadcast booths remained deserted. Not a single party member could be seen in the background.
Only two party members, Labor Minister Meir Cohen and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, were allowed to give interviews. When Cohen entered the area for the first time, all the journalists and photographers crowded around him. After the round of interviews, they, like dozens of other journalists and campaign workers, spent the night waiting for prime minister and party chairman Yair Lapid to arrive.
Earlier in the evening, when exist poll results were just rumors, it was clear to party members that this would be a long night of diversion: party activists received instructions to remain at the polling stations and not to come to the headquarters before Lapid's arrival. Party representatives disappeared. All that was left to do was wait for Lapid and avoid any display of disappointment in front of the cameras.
Other parties in the center – left bloc that opposes former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu chose a much simpler solution: Labor announced the party’s event was canceled “in light of the uncertainty of the results,” as chairwoman Merav Michaeli said. Meretz shut down the event early and chairwoman Zehava Galon was a no-show.
For Yesh Atid members, it was clear to them that Lapid would have to speak, even if it was to address bad news. "To set the narrative," is how one campaign worker put it. Maybe, the party hoped, as votes continued to be counter, something would change. This thought left a little room for optimism as they awaited Lapid's arrival.
In the meantime, there was radio silence – and not for the first time. Yesh Atid's party apparatus is well-oiled for such situations.
Lapid arrived at 1:30 A.M Wednesday. The headquarters finally began filling up and Lapid was greeted with both fierce applause and watery eyes. His narrative? That it was too early to really know: "This night will last for two days," he said, and "Until the last envelopes are counted, nothing is finished." He then thanked his party campaign staff and quickly left.
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A few campaign workers remained at the headquarters after Lapid's departure, hanging on to a string of hope. "It's only a sample [exit poll]," one of them said in an attempt to calm the others. "Everything depends on whether Balad will pass [the electoral threshold] or not," another said. "Remember last election?" he added, "It seemed everything was lost."