Kadima probe could keep PM in power

Investigation of improprieties in current party membership drive could delay upcoming primary.

Olmert happy 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert happy 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A decision by the National Fraud Unit to investigate alleged improprieties in the current Kadima membership drive could end up delaying the party's primary that was expected to take place in early September, Kadima officials said Tuesday. Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon, who heads the unit, wrote the Movement for Quality Government on Monday that he would examine the possibility of opening an investigation. But a decision on whether to open a formal probe is not expected until after Kadima sets a date for its primary in its July 10 council meeting. Kadima's comptroller will also conduct a thorough investigation, which will include calls to thousands of Kadima members to make sure that they joined the party knowingly and willingly and paid their membership fee themselves. The Movement for Quality Government asked Ayalon to prevent Kadima from making use of its membership rolls, even if it would mean delaying the primary and allowing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to remain Kadima head and prime minister. Past investigations into primaries in Labor resulted in delays of the votes. Labor officials were divided on Tuesday about whether they would allow a probe into Kadima's membership drive to delay replacing Olmert. Some Labor officials said they would love to see Kadima embroiled in a police probe and would wait patiently for Kadima's primary in such a scenario. Other said Kadima must stick to the letter of the deal it reached with Labor last Wednesday that required Kadima to hold its primary by September 25. Ironically, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who wants the Kadima primary held as soon as possible, may have unwittingly delayed it when she demanded in Monday's Kadima faction meeting that the membership drive be investigated. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is Livni's main competition in the race, rejected Livni's attempts to tie him personally to the alleged wrongdoing. "The attacks are intended to weaken him and delegitimize the people he registered," a source close to Mofaz said. "It's baseless nonsense. She just said it to try to strengthen her super-clean image."