likud faction 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A record low turnout is expected on Thursday, when the 3012-member Likud central committee is set to vote at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds to rank the 92 candidates running for slots on the party's Knesset slate.
Dozens of Likud central committee members have reportedly left to Kadima or lost interest in the party. More are expected to leave after the race. Likud officials lowered expectations on Tuesday, saying that they would be satisfied if two-thirds of the committee members vote, a figure much lower than the 95 percent that came out to vote last time in December 2002.
The 2002 election is remembered for its carnival atmosphere, the free hot dogs and other gifts given out by the candidates in an effort to sway the central committee members. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu doesn't want a repeat of those scenes, so he issued a list of regulations to make Thursday's race more dignified.
Under the new rules, candidates will not be allowed to lease tents at the fairgrounds, play jingles on loudspeakers or hang up posters. It will also be forbidden to distribute food or election paraphernalia larger than a T-shirt or a hat.
Even the traditional campaigning and handshaking outside the voting booths by the candidates is expected to be limited because of the expected stormy weather.
Netanyahu issued a statement calling upon the central committee to elect a list that will be "varied and reflect the population," meaning not entirely Ashkenazi. Netanyahu made the statement after polls showed that the top 10 slots on the list after Tunisian-born Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom would all be Ashkenazim.
The Sephardim that Netanyahu wants to see on the list include Moroccan-born former foreign minister David Levy, Libyan Moshe Kahlon and Yemenite Michael Ratzon.
The 26 current Likud MKs, plus former minister Natan Sharansky and former MK Zalman Shoval, will be limited to only the first 18 slots on the list. Newcomers are also eligible to win one of the first 18 slots. The top newcomers running are Alfei Menashe mayor Hisdai Eliezer and Sderot mayor Eli Moyal.
Slot number 19 will be reserved for a new candidate from Tel Aviv, the 20th will go to a woman, 21 to a newcomer from the coastal plain, 22 for the Dan region, 23 for a Druse, 24 another woman 25 Sharon region, 26 a resident of a regional council, 27 North, 28 Haifa, 29 a woman, 30 South, 31 Jerusalem, 32 for a resident of Judea or Samaria and 33 for a new immigrant.