Elections for the eighth Knesset were held on December 31, 1973, after having been postponed due to the Yom Kippur War. The shadow of the war dominated the elections, with many citizens still in the army and the IDF still present in a Syrian enclave and beyond the Suez Canal. The elections had been scheduled for October 30, 1973, but the war had broken out on October 6. During her time in office, Prime Minister Golda Meir had assembled a close-knit group of Ma'arach ministers and it seemed that they would succeed Golda, who was ill with cancer. Meanwhile, significant changes had taken place on the right of the political spectrum, chief among them the establishment of the Likud. Ariel Sharon, who had retired from the IDF in the summer of 1973, initiated a merger of Gachal with several smaller right-wing parties, thus creating a political body of 31 mandates to oppose the Ma'arach. The Likud was headed by Menachem Begin, who was surrounded by a group of young politicians. The Ma'arach sought to convey an air of quiet leadership, confidence and responsibility, but the war rocked the country and the political system. In the foreshortened election campaign before the country went to the polls in December, the public was primarily focused on harsh accusations against Golda Meir and her government. Citizens went to the polls with a sense of shock and dismay.