Livni vs Mofaz: Polls open in Kadima primary race

Livni camp complains of deceptive SMS sent by Mofaz supporters; party's Elections C'tee says won't extend voting beyond 10 p.m.

Mofaz Netanyahu Livni 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Mofaz Netanyahu Livni 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Polls in the Kadima leadership race opened throughout Israel Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. and were scheduled to close at 10 p.m. Current party leader Tizpi Livni is facing a challenge from former IDF chief of General Staff and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz.
Minutes after the polls opened, the first complaints were made. Head of Kadima's Central Elections Committee Judge Edna Beckenstein recommended filing a police complaint against MK Shaul Mofaz's camp over a mass SMS text message that appeared to be intended to deceive voters, a Kadima statement said.
"On the face of it; this is an act that is meant to deceitfully alter the elections," Beckenstein said, calling on police to immediately open an investigation.
The message, sent Tuesday morning by the Mofaz camp to Livni supporters invited them to vote a day after after the primary: "Reminder: On Wednesday March 28, we arrive at the polls, vote and win with Tzipi Livni."
In a separate incident, posters and signs supporting Livni were torn down near ballot boxes overnight Monday, Livni supporters in Tiberias said Tuesday morning. Other signs were left in place, they said.
"We call on the Mofaz camp to instruct their members to refrain from any acts of violence during the day of the Kadima primary," a spokesman for the Livni camp said in a statement.
The head of the party's Central Election's Committee said in radio interviews Tuesday that she would not extend voting hours past 10 p.m., unlike in the last race when a controversial move was taken and influenced the outcome of the race. Official results are not expected until at least 1 a.m. but spokesmen for the candidates said they would know who won much earlier based on voter turnout in Livni’s and Mofaz’s respective strongholds.
As of 12 p.m., 5.7 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots, the party spokesman said.
Both candidates predicted victory and attacked each other ahead voting. In the last Kadima primary four years ago, Livni defeated Mofaz by only 431 votes.
Livni is said to have an advantage in Tel Aviv and the Center and among Russian immigrants, while Mofaz is thought to be stronger in the North and South and among Arabs and Druse. Turnout in general is expected to be very low due to forecasts for rain and the fact that Kadima membership is very difficult to cancel – to the point that many dead people remain on the party’s voter rolls.