Likud primary extended following 'poor weather'

Election deadline pushed back 1 hour to 11:00 p.m.; Feiglin says polling irregularities are "sabotage attempts."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
January 31, 2012 21:40
3 minute read.
Likud primary polling place in Jerusalem

Likud primary polling place 390. (photo credit: Ben Spier/screenshot)

 
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The Likud Central Elections Committee extended the deadline for the primary voting by one hour to 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, saying poor weather conditions could have prevented voters from casting their ballots.

Earlier, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's campaign expressed worry about weather forecasts, which had predicted rain in much of the country.

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As Netanyahu and Likud rival Moshe Feiglin were facing off in the primary election for the party's leadership, the Feiglin camp voiced concerns about a deliberate campaign to prevent his supporters from voting.

Netanyahu and Feiglin voted in their party primary Tuesday morning a short time after polls opened. As of 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 40,00 people had cast their votes in the election, some 32 percent of the 125,000 eligible voters.

A Likud official on Tuesday informed 41 party members that had been evacuated from Gush Katif in 2005 that they are ineligible to vote in the Likud primary elections because their place of residence is as of yet unknown. Eligibility for voting in the party primary hinges on one's ability to vote in local elections.

Likud primary contender Moshe Feiglin's campaign chairman Ezra Gabay said that 41 Gush Katif evacuees were ineligible to vote because Netanyahu had consciously tied the vote for party leader to the vote for local representatives. Gabay added that all of the 41 evacuees had voted in previous party elections.

The Feiglin campaign also claimed that a lack of proper voting materials at ballot boxes in Judea and Samaria were preventing Likud members from voting at those polling places.

The Feiglin camp said in a statement that they were convinced the problem was "not an innocent mistake, but rather an attempt to sabotage the vote in places where Feiglin wins wide support."

When asked if he believed the Likud administration was working against him, Feiglin said he had a "difficult feeling" that efforts were being made to prevent people from voting for him.

Feiglin asked for a two-hour extension in the primary voting due to the alleged voting violations.

A Likud spokesman responded that there were a number of polling stations that opened late and had various other problems, and they were working to solve all of them. The spokesman emphasized that nothing was done purposely to harm one candidate or another.

Upon placing his vote at the Binyanei Ha'uma Conference Center in Jerusalem, Netanyahu urged party activists to come out and vote. He warned that, "If the inactive majority stays home, we get an inaccurate picture" of what party activists want. "If everyone comes and votes, we get a clear picture," he told reporters.

"I take every election seriously," he said, expressing hope that the turnout would be closer to 100% than the 40% who voted in the previous primary.

Feiglin, who voted near his home in in Karnei Shomron said he was confident his supporters would come out to vote.

"Every extra percent I get today beyond what I got before is an advancement of the national camp," Feiglin said in an interview with Army Radio Tuesday morning.

At stake for Likud members across the country is the party leader and the makeup of the Likud central committee.

About 125,000 people, who have been Likud members for at least 16 months, will be eligible to vote. More than 150 polling stations opened Tuesday.

Results are not expected until after midnight when the winner of the leadership race will call a press conference at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.

Both Netanyahu and Feiglin hope to exceed their totals from the last Likud election in August 2007 when Netanyahu won 73.2% of the vote and Feiglin 23.4%.

Sources close to Netanyahu expressed concern Monday that if the turnout in Tuesday’s race is not higher, it could artificially inflate support for Feiglin, whose supporters may flock to polling stations in large numbers.

In an unplanned press conference Tuesday, Netanyahu asked registered Likud members to exercise their right to vote before polls close.

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