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The process of removing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from office proved even more difficult than expected on Sunday when a vote on initiating a Kadima leadership race had to be extended to ensure a majority.
According to party bylaws, a majority of the Kadima Council's 180 members must vote to change the party constitution to approve the primary.
As of late Sunday, 83 had voted in favor and 25 against in the open-ballot voting being conducted at Kadima's headquarters in Petah Tikva.
Council chairman Meir Nitzan and the head of Kadima's steering committee, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, officially extended the vote until Friday, but said they expected the magic number to be reached by Monday.
"There is no real deadline," Hanegbi said. "We have a mission to pass this proposal, and we will continue the voting until we do, even if it takes seven years. The moment a majority plus one has voted in favor, the voting will be stopped."
At Sunday's meeting of Kadima ministers, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed frustration with the slow pace of the voting. She called on her fellow ministers to issue a joint call to council members to come and vote, in the style of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who issued a controversial televised call to Likud central committee members to vote in the 2002 Likud leadership race despite a terrorist attack at one of the party's polling stations.
"If we don't call on people to vote, Kadima will crash and we will lose the little faith the public still has left in us," Livni told the ministers. "We have to show responsibility due to the talk that there has been of people being discouraged from voting."
Livni made reference to reports that Olmert's advisers had actively pressured their allies on the council to refrain from voting. While Olmert's advisers have denied this, an MK close to Livni said he had proof that it had happened.
A Livni loyalist called the apathy in the voting on such a key issue "pathetic." He blamed the lack of turnout in 10 days of voting on the makeup of the council, which he said was composed of MKs who already voted, mayors who were too busy to vote, and political allies of Olmert, whom he put on the council to support him.
"No one realized how problematic this group is until now," the Livni loyalist said. "Some council members handpicked by Olmert aren't even members of the party and some don't even live in the country."
Kadima officials said they were surprised that 25 council members voted against initiating a primary to remove Olmert from office. But those who voted against said they had very good reasons.
"I don't think there should be a a general election or a primary in Kadima now," said Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavie, who voted against the proposal. "I don't think we should do primaries just because Labor chairman Ehud Barak wants them. It's not fitting for him to force a race in our party just because of the [Morris] Talansky case, where Olmert has not been proven guilty."