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Likud party primary vote continues in second day
By GIL HOFFMAN AND LAHAV HARKOV
25/11/2012
Electronic voting machines break down across country, election c'tee decides to extend vote to additional day of voting.
 
The Likud’s election committee decided to add an extra day of voting in the party’s primary Monday to make up for computer glitches across the country that plagued the party all day Sunday.

Fifty of the 132 polling stations will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to give another chance to the half of the 123,351 Likud members who did not vote Sunday. While the 50 percent turnout on Sunday was higher than the 48% who voted in the last election four years ago, the election committee decided the additional day of voting was needed to make the vote fair, and avoid potential lawsuits.

A Likud spokeswoman said there were polling stations where fewer than 10% of eligible voters cast their ballots.

Likud officials said it was likely the party would sue Aman, the computer company that orchestrated the polling. Aman deputy director- general Tzvika Raz blamed the problem on hackers, while others familiar with the situation blamed Likud for not paying for enough bandwidth for the computers at the polling stations.

When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voted in the morning in Givat Ze’ev, he boasted that the computer system worked for him and urged people to come out and vote. But as he spoke, polling stations were closed from Haifa and Beit She’an to Jerusalem and Modi’in.

“The election is a farce,” said Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who came second after Netanyahu in the last Likud primary. “It should be stopped immediately and set for another day.”

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz added that “the technological problems ruined the festive atmosphere, are annoying, and make the process questionably democratic.”

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said it was important to make sure no results from the first day of voting would be leaked. He urged the party to ban signs and banners at polling stations Monday, because they give wealthier candidates an unfair advantage.

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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin attempted to vote on Sunday morning, but left in anger when unable to do so, and returned later.

Soon after, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor arrived and voted immediately, but waited nearly an hour for his son to come out of his voting booth, where the computer malfunctioned.

The booths on the way to the ballots were buzzing with activity, with volunteers in campaign T-shirts distributing a seemingly endless supply of fliers, stickers and loudspeakers competing to play each candidate’s song louder than the others.

Over 100 Likud members waited outside the Jerusalem International Convention Center to exercise their democratic right early Sunday afternoon, as only two out of 40 computers were working. Security let voters trickle in, three to five at a time, a guard said, but many in line were frustrated.

Polina Balaclav and her 89-year-old mother waited in the area for several hours, visiting booths where activists distributed stickers and fliers, and occasionally checking on the line.

“This is very frustrating. It wasn’t this big of a mess in previous years,” Balaclav said. “The people who made the [computer] program messed up. They’re making people worried, and couldn’t do the right thing on Election Day.”

Ami, a middle-aged, first-time Likud voter who had been on line for 45 minutes, said he would probably have to leave to return to work before he got to the front of the line.

“I waited two hours, but a lot of people left before they were able to vote,” a haredi man, 25, said. “I stayed because of my ideology. I voted for right-wing people.”

Avigdor Bitton, 18, was excited to have voted for the first time. Bitton handed out fliers for coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, whose Gangnam Style-parodying campaign video “Elkin Style” played in a booth adorned with his banners.

“I came at the very beginning and waited half-an-hour before I voted,” Bitton said. “A lot of people are leaving and saying they’ll return at night.”

Meanwhile, some of the lesserknown primary candidates walked around the booths and talked to voters.

Emmanuel Navon, a self-described “French Anglo” and lecturer in political science and communications at Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya running for the new immigrant spot, said many Likud members left without being able to vote, disgruntled by the long lines and malfunctioning computers.

Though many on line were holding prepared lists of candidates sent to them by Likud pressure groups, Navon said he is sure that “at the end of the day, most people decide by themselves.”

“I’m the only Western immigrant running in this spot,” Navon explained. “All the others are from Ethiopia or Russia. I’m trying to set a precedent.”

Meanwhile, Ariel Morali, a party activist and employee at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center running for the young candidates’ spot, waited by the booths, hoping that the long line to vote would disappear.

“I have been active with young people in Likud for years, and I hope people will appreciate that,” he said, when asked of his chances to make it into the next Knesset.
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