The exit polls may have awarded Tzipi Livni with a clear-cut victory over rival Shaul Mofaz in the Kadima primary elections – but the picture seemed quite different after midnight Thursday as both camps geared for an unforeseen twist in the results.
According to the final results, Livni defeated rival Mofaz by a narrow margin of 1.1% of the vote. According to the final results released by Kadima, Livni won the election with 43.1% (16,936 votes). Mofaz came in a close second with 42% (16,505 votes).
Meir Sheetrit came third with 8.5% (3,327) and fourth was Avi Dichter with 6.5% (2,563). In all only 32,872 registered Kadima members cast their ballot - only 53.7%.
Mofaz's camp initially claimed he was leading the foreign affairs minister by 800 votes, but relented as the night progressed that Livni had indeed won. Mofaz later phoned Livni to congratulate her on the victory, but the narrow margin is already being contested, and the transportation minister is likely appeal the results.
His headquarters is also demanding an Ashkelon ballot be disqualified. Mofaz's headquarters surged back to life as news of the final results trickled down, and Mofaz himself is expected to return.
Livni was cautious after the exit poll figures were released. She made no victory speech, choosing instead to settle for brief calls to her staffers in which she told them they had "fought like lions, against many
opportunists, and you were simply amazing – the good guys won."
Throughout the day Livni was concerned that a low voter turnout would give the more organized Mofaz camp an advantage. She requested ballots remain open for an additional hour. The Kadima central elections committee granted her an additional half hour, after appeals by Mofaz and Sheetrit were rejected.
Kadima MK Zeev Elkin, a close associate of Mofaz, said the latter's campaign headquarters plans to demand a recount of all ballots in the Kadima primary elections.
Amnon Meranda contributed to the report