Gideon Saar celebrates
Photo: Ofer Amram
Thousands await turn at Jerusalem ballot
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Netanyahu - Concerned over turnout
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Feiglin - To gain from situation?
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Likud veterans prevail in primaries

Old-timers' fears new star talent would steal their coveted top spots on election roster appear unfounded as Gideon Saar sweeps first place, followed by Erdan, Rivlin, Begin, Kahlon, Shalom and Yaalon. Moshe Feiglin lands 20th slot. Ballots stayed open additional two hours to compensate for string of technical maladies that paralyzed computerized voting system

A total of 48,458 out of 99,000 Likud members voted on Monday's primary elections, in all 49.17% of the party's eligible voters cast their ballots.


Accounting for party chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu, the big winner of the evening is MK Gideon Saar.


He is followed by Gilad Erdan, Reuven Rivlin, Benny Begin, Moshe Kahlon, Silvan Shalom, Moshe Yaalon, Yuval Steinitz and Leah Ness – who surprised everyone by overtaking Limor Livnat as the Likud's top female candidate.


The next ten consist of Yisrael Katz, Yuli Edelstein, Limor Livnat, Yossi Peled, Haim Katz, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Tzipi Chotobali, Gila Gamliel.


Moshe Feiglin, whose ascent is greatly feared by Netanyahu, reportedly reached the 20th spot.

The Likud's top ten


Kadima was quick to respond to the results: "From this evening it can't be covered up anymore, once again the Likud is captive by the extremist right, which is trying to get to power and realize its extremist policies together with Benjamin Netanyahu."


'Saddened and Ashamed'

Just like his Labor counterpart last week, the Likud's secretary general also found himself apologizing on the eve of his party's primary elections.


On Monday evening the Likud's central election committee announced ballots would remain open an additional two hours, until 1:00 am, due to the endless lines of voters still waiting for their turn. The voter turnout was reported as being less than 50%.


"I apologize for the distress this caused and call on people to come and vote tonight," Secretary-General Gadi Arieli said on Monday after the committee's announcement. Likud MK Gilad Erdan summed up the fiasco: "I am saddened, and also a little ashamed."


There was a great deal of concern amongst those close to Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the extremely low voter turnout, which they feared would help Moshe Feiglin – who Netanyahu has sought to expunge from the Knesset roster.


The Feiglin camp, meanwhile, warned it would appeal to the High Court of justice over proposals to extend the voting by an additional day. Field operatives were furious, saying such a move would constitute an unprecedented affront to democracy. Top Likud officials eventually also agreed it would be a mistake to continue voting on Tuesday, although the proposal has yet to be completely rejected.


"The preparations for this election were flawed, the entire plan was flawed," said senior party officials, quick to launch a stinging assault.


"The number of sites was very small and there were very few polling booths. This could have been calculated so easily, and then we could have handled the influx of voters. This is a huge blunder, particularly because we could have anticipated this," they said.


The problem began due to the transition to electronic ballots – which also felled the Labor primaries. The malfunctions meant voters were stuck at the booths for extended periods of time. In some towns the computers crashed altogether.


Several Likud operatives testified that voters "just gave up on the line and went home."


Netanyahu briefly discussed his discontent with the situation, saying "there is no doubt that there is much room for improvement with computerized voting. This much is clear."


Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 12.08.08, 22:05
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