Registered Kadima voters have began voting for the party's new chairman, who will represent the Knessset's largest party in the next national elections. Candidates Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz will be ending a months-long campaign complete with slanders and mutual recrimination. Some 96,000 voters will cast their ballots in 197 polling stations across Israel.
As of 12 pm, some 5.75% of registered voters had cast their ballots.
"I feel great," Mofaz said after casting his ballot in Kfar Saba. "These elections are elections for the State of Israel's future and values," he added. "At the end of this day, Kadima will embark on a new path as a ruling alternative to the Netanyahu government. I intend to win the general elections and replace Netanyahu."
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Livni, on her part, appeared confident at the campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv. "I'm going to win," she said. "People should know that eventually the country's future is determined by who is elected chairman." Asked if she will stay in the opposition in case Mofaz wins, she said: "I don't believe in opposition within parties."
Later, after casing her ballot she said, "The citizens of Israel want me as their leader, this is not a personal matter between myself and Shaul."
She explained that they both represent two different Kadimas. "A Kadima led by me is an alternative to the prime minister, a large part with an ideology that can represent the unrepresented Israeli public, versus a small Kadima serving the government."
MK Mofaz has declared he will not leave the party if defeated in the elections, but Chairwoman Livni has thus far not made any such promises. Political elements estimated that should Livni lose the race, she will not stay in Kadima under Mofaz's leadership.
The two candidates continue to scramble for votes on the ground, after holding phone conversations with potential voters in an effort to ensure their participation in the elections on Monday. Polling stations will close at 10 pm, after which all votes will be counted.
Campaign activists are hoping to get as many voters to the polling stations. Large police forces and private security guards will provide security at the stations throughout the day. The winner will be announced at Kadima's headquarters in Petah Tikva.
Moran Azulay and Boaz Fyler contributed to this report
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