Livni optimistic at bleak TA polling station

Kadima leader casts her vote at hometown polling station as Shaul Mofaz challenges her for the party leadership.

Tzipi Livni casts her Kadima primary vote in Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Tzipi Livni casts her Kadima primary vote in Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
The Kadima polling station in party leadership candidate Tzipi Livni's home turf – north Tel Aviv - was a ghost town as it opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Supporters of MK Shaul Mofaz pitched a makeshift tent out of banners reading "Mofaz. Prime Minister.," where they gave out t-shirts and caps, while Livni activists handed out apparel at a nearby table. Both sides hung signs off of every possible tree branch and pole outside the building where the voting was set to take place.
The young activists, mostly in their twenties and early thirties, were offset by the slow trickle of voters, all of whom appeared to be middle-aged or older.
Soon enough, the bold-faced names started to arrive, like MK Ronit Tirosh, the head of Mofaz's campaign in Tel Aviv, and MK Doron Avital showing support for Livni.
Tirosh's explanation for the low turnout is that "this is Tel Aviv; people work."
"Those who joined Kadima during [former prime minister and party founder Ariel] Sharon's time and are disappointed by Livni might not vote at all," she said. "I hope Shaul [Mofaz] will win, because he will keep people loyal to our party."
The MK predicted that 40 percent of Tel Aviv's Kadima members would come to the polls. While she was confident that Mofaz would win easily, Tirosh admitted that Tel Aviv is Livni territory, and said she thought votes in the White City would be split relatively evenly between the two candidates.
As Tirosh was speaking, reporters began to grumble about the lack of action on the scene, hoping that Livni would show up with a big, loud, cheering entourage.
Those hopes half came true. Livni leader arrived with about 10 people, including her husband Naftali Spitzer, MK Yoel Hasson, and bodyguards, chanting "Tzi-PI Liv-NI!"
The reporters and photographers from every newspaper, television channel and radio station in the country formed a larger throng than Livni's followers, and they continued to walk with her up to the table where volunteers checked off her name.
"I am happy to hear the polls are full of people coming to vote," Livni said, despite her surroundings. "It is a great feeling; people are taking the future in their hands."
"The people want to see me at the head of Kadima," she declared.
Livni added that the race is not personal, but is the time for voters to decide between "two different Kadimas." Livni's Kadima will be bigger, stronger and an alternative to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, she said, while Mofaz will form a coalition with haredi (ultra-orthodox) parties and pay any price to be in the coalition.
"There are significant differences between us, in the most basic issues," she explained. "This is a time to make a major decision."
Livni ducked behind a screen, presumably to choose her own name, and dropped her envelope in the voting box as cameras clicked and flashed at her.
Then, the candidate departed the same chanting flurry in which she arrived, leaving the polling station to become a ghost town again.