High turnout in fateful vote

Likud decision may lead to lawsuits.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud convening, January 25, 2015 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud convening, January 25, 2015
The Likud’s internal court is set to convene this week to rule on appeals of the results of Sunday’s vote on how the party’s MKs will be elected.
Results of the vote were not available by press time, but both sides hinted that the Likud’s bylaws were sufficiently unclear to require an appeal to the party’s court, headed by former MK Michael Kleiner, if they lost. Kleiner declined appeals to change the procedure of the voting before polls opened Sunday, saying he could convene his court after the results were in.
Half an hour before the polls closed, more than 2,600 of the 3,770 Likud central committee members had voted, a turnout of close to 70 percent. Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said hat the higher the turnout, the more likely his compromise proposal would pass.
When Netanyahu voted at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Sunday, he called on central committee members to vote for the compromise, which he said would guarantee that the Likud would “remain the ruling party for years to come.”
In closed conversations, he accused former Likud officials in other parties of interfering in the vote, referring to Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon.
The 3,770 members of the Likud central committee were eligible to vote in 17 polling stations across the country on proposals to change how Israel’s ruling party elects its MKs.
The central committee members were deciding whether to keep the current system by which Knesset candidates are chosen by the 100,000 Likud members, give themselves the exclusive power to pick the MKs, or adopt a compromise proposal backed by Netanyahu in which the members would select the party’s top candidates and the central committee would pick candidates further down the list in slots reserved for new candidates from regions.
The ballots provide four options, with the fourth being none of the above. To change the status quo, any of the four options would be required to receive 51 percent of the vote. Splitting the ballot in four makes achieving that much support difficult to get.
MK David Amsalem, who has been the main backer of giving central committee members the right to choose the entire list, said late Sunday that the large turnout was already a victory for the party.
He said he would accept any result with love, that he did not want to embarrass the prime minister, and that the vote was not a contest.
However, earlier Sunday in radio interviews, he said Netanyahu was “not our rebbe,” and that Israel was not Soviet Russia or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.