Polls close in Kadima primary; 38% voter turnout

Livni complains of deceptive SMS, phone campaign by Mofaz; party's Elections C'tee says won't extend vote beyond 10 p.m.

Mofaz Netanyahu Livni 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Mofaz Netanyahu Livni 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Polls have closed for the Kadima primary, after the party spokesperson reported 38.3 percent of eligible voter participation an hour before the 10:00 p.m. deadline.
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.
The first complaints over the election procedure were lodged just minutes after polls opened. Head of Kadima's Central Elections Committee Judge Edna Beckenstein filed a police complaint against MK Shaul Mofaz's camp over mass SMS and phone campaigns that appeared 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.
Later in the day, Livni accused Mofaz of initiating a telephone campaign supplying false information to Livni supporters. According to a statement released by her office, voters in the ongoing Kadima election have been receiving phone calls from people identifying themselves as Livni supporters telling them that they have until 11:30 pm to vote (ballots actually close at 10 p.m.), and that they can do so at polling stations that are not their own.
"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.
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 was 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.