Computer failure forces Barak to put off vote; new polls predicts less than 10 seats for party.
By SHELLY PAZ
Labor's party primary was canceled three hours after the polling booths were opened Tuesday, after technical problems plagued the country's first effort at electronic voting.
This latest embarrassment for Labor comes on the heels of polls predicting that the once-ruling party will end up with fewer than 10 seats in the next Knesset.
The party has also suffered the departure of Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon and the decision by a party appeals committee to nix the reservation of the sixth spot on its Knesset candidates list for National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
The decision to cancel the voting came after several candidates complained that the computer system failed to process votes that had been cast for them.
Ben-Eliezer was among the candidates who wanted the voting to be extended to midnight while the problems were corrected, even though that would have eliminated one of the perceived advantages of electronic voting, which is that the results would be available in time for newspaper deadlines.
In the end, it was decided to reschedule the vote.
The party actually flubbed that as well, rescheduling it at first for next Wednesday, December 10, only to learn that the date coincides with the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, which would have affected the ability of Labor's 10,000 Arab members to vote.
Eventually it was decided to hold it this Thursday. Voting will be manual, with participants to check off candidates from a list, as in the past.
Several Labor MKs insisted that they had been against the electronic voting in the first place, among them Matan Vilna'i, Amir Peretz and Ophir Paz-Pines.
"Even if everything had gone well, I warned that many Labor members would face difficulties using the system," Peretz told Army Radio on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before it was decided to call off the primary.
But most complaints were aimed at party secretary-general Eitan Cabel, whose own slot on the party's list had been reserved to allow him to organize the logistics for the primary and the general elections.
Speaking to reporters at Labor headquarters in Tel Aviv, Cabel said he was not responsible for the fiasco, blaming the Teldor company, which had won the tender for the electronic voting project.
"Labor's elections committee had decided to conduct electronic voting as is done in many places in the world, because we thought this would allow clean, fast and reliable results," Cabel said.
"The fact is that both Kadima and Likud followed our decision," he added.
He added that the system had been tested for more than six weeks.
"Unfortunately, the system collapsed two hours after the polling booths were opened. The process lost its legitimacy so we had no choice but to cancel the primary.
"I apologize to the elections committee, to the voters and to the candidates. We believe it was best to stop a defective process and not cause any injustice," he said.
The failure was being investigated and the party was planning to sue Teldor, Cabel said.
"We chose Teldor not just because their price was lower [than the other bidder, Malam, which will run Kadima's voting] but also because of the experience it has," he said. "The Labor Party's image has suffered serious damage and we plan to try and at least restore some of our economic pride."
In a statement, Teldor said, "Unfortunately, a fault interrupted this unique and special system that was being operated for the first time in Israel. We will do everything in our power to assist in the party's elections."
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