Huge night for Tzipi Livni: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won Wednesday's Kadima primaries with roughly 48% of the vote, exit polls predicted after polling station across the nation closed.
According to Channel 2's exit poll, Livni won 48% of the vote, while Mofaz won 37%. Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit were tied at 7% each. According to Channel 10, Livni won 49% of the vote and Mofaz garnered 37%. Sheetrit and Dichter were tied at 7% in this poll as well. Meanwhile, Channel 1 predicted that Livni won 47% of the vote, compared to Mofaz's 37%
As of 1:00 am 4,992 votes have been counted out of a total of 40,000 – awarding Livni 57.9% of the vote, Mofaz with 28.6%, Sheetrit with 8.2% and Dichter with 5.3%.
Exit polls: Big win for Livni
Throughout the campaign, Livni aimed to convince Kadima voters that she will bring the party back to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's glory days. She repeatedly stressed her clean, uncorrupted image, noting that "I've been conducting myself differently throughout my political life, not in order to say I'm different, but rather, to prove that it is possible to do it differently."
Livni will now replace Ehud Olmert as Kadima chairman and will have the opportunity to form a government. Should she be able to secure a coalition, Livni will become Israel's first female prime minister since Golda Meir, who led the country in the 1970s.
Livni supporters ecstatic (Photo: AP)
Meanwhile, Mofaz's activists were stunned by the exit polls. "I'm shocked. This contradicts everything I thought," one of them said. A female activist added: "Perhaps there is still some hope. Maybe the actual results will be the oppositeand Shaul Mofaz will become the next prime minister. We believe in him."
Elsewhere, Dichter's camp issued a statement in response to the exit polls: "This is Minister Dichter's first but certainly not last race. Overall we're quite satisfied with the poll results and are waiting for the actual results."
The day was marred by reports of irregularities and mayhem. The Central Elections Committee disqualified the polling station in Rahat after a man entered the site and threw all the ballots out the window. Irregularities were also reported in other polling stations.
Big winner – Livni earlier in the day (Photo: Reuters)
Wednesday evening, following a tense day, Kadima's Central Elections Committee approved Livni's request to extend voting hours to 10:30 pm, instead of 10 pm, as result of "congestion at polling stations" nationwide. Earlier in the day, Livni associates expressed deep concern over the low voter turnout rate reported across the country.
Voting hours were initially extended to 11 pm in wake of Livni's request, but the decision was changed following an appeal submitted by Mofaz's camp. Mofaz was hoping for a low turnout rate in order to capitalize on his camp's superior organizational abilities. However, it now appears Livni was able to bring her supporters to the polling stations and score a huge victory.