Desperate Likud moves up newcomers' slots

Sderot mayor joins party, says Sharon 'hates democracy'

In a sign of desperation, the Likud central committee voted by a wide margin on Monday to advance positions on the Likud list reserved for first-time MKs. An embarrassingly low 29 percent of the central committee came out to vote at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. When the Likud was expected to receive 40 Knesset seats, 13 slots were reserved for newcomers, starting with the 25th position. Now that the polls are predicting that the party would be lucky to win 20 mandates, the central committee decided to reserve slots for rookies starting with the 19th slot. Slot number 19 will be reserved for a new candidate from Tel Aviv, the 20th will go to a woman, 21 to a newcomer from the coastal plain, 22 for the Dan region, 23 for a Druse, 24 for another woman, 25 for Sharon region, 26 would be a resident of a regional council, 27 North, 28 Haifa, 29 a woman, 30 South, 31 Jerusalem, 32 for a resident of Judea or Samaria and 33 for a new immigrant. The decision means that the only realistic slots available to veteran MKs and ministers would be the first 18 on the list. The 26 remaining Likud MKs and former MKs like Natan Sharansky and Zalman Shoval will compete for those slots. Newcomers are also eligible to win one of the first 18 slots. The top newcomers running are Moshe Feiglin, Alfei Menashe mayor Hisdai Eliezer and Sderot mayor Eli Moyal, but a former general, such as former IDF OC Southern Command Yom-Tov Samia, could be brought into the party ahead of the January 3 race for the Likud's Knesset list. Moyal announced on Monday that he was running for Knesset with the Likud, even though he received offers to run with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party, Shinui, Meretz, Labor and the National Union. He said he decided to stay with the Likud because the party needed a boost. "The Likud needs sympathy because it's in bad condition," Moyal told The Jerusalem Post. "I didn't want to go to Kadima because Sharon hates democracy. All his people seem to be like sheep. I don't believe in fashionable parties. I wanted to run in my home party." Moyal had intended to endorse Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in the Likud leadership primary before he quit the race and joined Kadima. Moyal said that after Mofaz's departure, he did not intend to officially endorse a candidate, but he made clear that he preferred Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who tried to appoint him ambassador to France, over former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "I am joining the Likud to prevent Netanyahu from enacting the same economic policies that he did before," Moyal said. "But if the party votes in Netanyahu, it's a democracy. If I were in the Knesset, I would have opposed Netanyahu's policies, but I am not a rebel." Shalom and Netanyahu have both expressed interest in changing the system for electing the Likud's MKs. Mofaz had crafted a plan for changing the system before he left the Likud.