Netanyahu, Feiglin vote as Likud primary opens

Netanyahu worries low voter turnout at party primary could artificially inflate support for rival Moshe Feiglin; party activists call for boycott of primary to protest PM's policies.

Netanyahu votes in Likud primary 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu votes in Likud primary 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud rival Moshe Feiglin voted in their party primary Tuesday morning a short time after polls opened. Urging party activists to come out and vote, Netanyahu warned that "If the inactive majority stays home, we get an inaccurate picture" of what party activists want. "If everyone comes and votes, we get a clear picture," he told reporters at the Binyanei Ha'uma Conference Center in Jerusalem.
"I take every election seriously," he said, expressing hope that the turnout would be closer to 100 percent than the 40 percent who voted in the previous primary.
Feiglin, who voted near his home in in Karnei Shomron said he was confident his supporters would come out to vote.
"Every extra percent I get today beyond what I got before is an advancement of the national camp," Feiglin said in an interview with Army Radio Tuesday morning. At stake for Likud members across the country is the party leader and the makeup of the Likud central committee.
About 125,000 people, who have been Likud members for at least 16 months, will be eligible to vote. More than 150 polling stations will remain open nationwide until 10 p.m.
Results are not expected until after midnight when the winner of the leadership race will call a press conference at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
Both Netanyahu and Feiglin hope to exceed their totals from the last Likud election in August 2007 when Netanyahu won 73.2 percent of the vote and Feiglin 23.4%.
Sources close to Netanyahu expressed concern Monday that if the turnout in Tuesday’s race is not higher, it could artificially inflate support for Feiglin, whose supporters may flock to polling stations in large numbers.
They said they were worried about weather forecasts predicting rain in much of the country.
Netanyahu sent an automated message to thousands of Likud members urging them to come out to vote.
Feiglin’s team of volunteers are working to bring members of his Manhigut Yehudit organization to the polls.
A group of Likud activists who have registered thousands of members eligible to vote in the race have called for a boycott of the primary to protest Netanyahu’s policies. The group hopes turnout will be less than 50% so they can call the election’s legitimacy into question.
Likud’s Judea and Samaria branch’s chairman, Shevach Stern, who initiated the boycott, said he won’t be going anywhere near polling stations.
“I will be going to work to support my family,” Stern said. “This is just a regular day for me.”