Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Kulanu Party leader Moshe Kahlon’s signature toothy grin was on display Tuesday night as the first exit polls showed him taking 10 seats, slightly ahead of the last election polls that put him at eight.
Party activists roared with the news of first surveys, chanting, “Here comes the next finance minister!” Kahlon is expected to take the Finance portfolio given his centrist positioning, which puts him in the kingmaking position between the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and the Likud’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu went so far as to already promise him the position before the election.
With the extra seats, Kahlon could also demand the Construction Ministry, which controls the Israel Lands Authority he is determined to break apart. He has somewhat less leverage in seeking a high-ranking ministry for the other candidates on his list: Yoav Galant, Eli Alalouf, and former ambassador Michael Oren.
The voting day began with a minor scandal. Central Elections Committee Judge Salim Joubran fined the Likud NIS 20,000 over a recording of Kahlon ostensibly expressing support for the Likud.
The party distributed the recording to potential voters on Monday evening, but Joubran ordered the group to halt using it at Kulanu’s request, saying it was a blatant attempt to deceive the electorate.
Kahlon called the recording “criminal,” saying it was a forgery and promising to seek a criminal investigation into it. “We are pleased that Judge Joubran stopped the Likud from continuing to distribute this untruthful recording,” the party said. “It is sad that the LIkud Party, in a moment of desperation, chooses to deceive the public.”
The Likud shot back that the recording was real, but old, and said that voters were smart enough to know that Kahlon had long been a Likudnik.
Kahlon cast an early ballot in Haifa before embarking on a tour of the small cities that have been the center of his campaign, and accompanying his mother to vote in his hometown of Givat Olga.
“This is the first time I am not voting for the Likud, but I do it wholeheartedly,” Kahlon said. “We founded the Kulanu Party to change the face of the nation. We are the only ones with the courage to battle the tycoons and pressure groups for the citizens.”
Other party members got Netanyahu jabs in too. “Nobody is leaving the country because of Iran,” his No. 2, Yoav Galant, said, referring to Netanyahu’s pet issue in the election. “They’re leaving because they’re fed up with the social and economic situation.
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