With over 90% of the votes in, it appears that Mofaz – who lost the previous Kadima primaries by a narrow margin – won 62% of the votes, while current Chairwoman Tzipi Livni lagged far behind with 38%.
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Head of Kadima's Election Committee Judge (Ret.) Edna Bekenstein said that the final results would be published only after all votes are counted. She added that the voting process was conducted in accordance with laws and regulations.
The party stationed 197 ballots across Israel, to serve its 95,000 registered members, but as of 10 pm – the time when the ballots closed – only 45% of the party's members cast their vote.
Mofaz campaign HQ (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
"This vote is a vote for the future of the State of Israel," Mofaz told reporters in his campaign headquarters earlier Tuesday. "I feel confident… I feel the people's sympathy and despite the low voter turnout I can feel the support in me constantly growing."
Sources in the Mofaz campaign said they were sure that they would deliver "a substantial victory."
Mofaz is set to become Kadima's fourth chairman after Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni.
'Time for the new Kadima'
Around 1 am, Tzipi Livni told reporters that she called Mofaz and congratulated him on his victory. She refused to take any questions.
Sources in Livni's campaign expressed great disappointment over the results, but stressed that they will recommend she refrain from making any drastic decisions.
Speaking to supporters in her campaign headquarters, Livni said: "These are the results of the elections. I made a decision in my life – to follow a path that is unusual in politics: To go all the way, to say 'no' to blackmail and to seat in the Opposition in the name of principle.
"I am grateful to all of you for the faith, the affection and the friendship. I want to thank you for everything."
Many within the party dismissed rumors that the leadership shift will cause the party to split. "Kadima is not a one-person party. The party has 95,000 members and they are just as important as its path." MK Orit Zuaretz told Ynet.
Senior Kadima MK Dalia Itzik expressed hope that Livni would stand by Mofaz: "Shaul now has to unite all of the forces in Kadima… I hope she will have the strength and ability to stand by him. This is the new Kadima."
MK Ruhama Avraham, who supported Mofaz in the primaries, said that "A decision was made in Kadima today and everyone must accept it. We have a lot of work ahead of us – to restore Kadima to its natural place as an alternative to Netanyahu's failing government."
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich also offered Mofaz her congratulations: "Mofaz is a worthy individual who has contributed greatly to this country. But right now, the Labor Party, under my leadership, is the only ideological alternative to Netanyahu's government."
Ehud Barak's Independence Party issued a statement congratulating Mofaz on his victory and the "wide voter support" he received.
Not all, however, were cordial: MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) commented Tuesday that "Mofaz' election makes no difference on politics. In the absence of ideology and leadership, all that will happen is that Kadima will be fazed out of the political spectrum."
MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) said he wishes Mofaz "many years as head of the Opposition. In any case, Kadima has reached the end of its road."
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) jabbed Livni further, saying that "Just as the Shinui Party and all other hate parties disappeared, Kadima's voters said 'no' to hate and 'no' to the constant incitement against the haredim."
Moran Azulay and Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report
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