Rain can't dampen NRP primaries

You needed a raincoat and galoshes to vote in Thursday's election for Knesset members for the National Religious Party. Rain poured through the holes in the large tent set up to protect voters as they wended their way to the cafeteria in the Bnei Akiva yeshiva in Moshav Nehalim outside Petah Tikva. Large puddles filled the narrow path between makeshift tables piled high with pamphlets touting the platforms of the 23 candidates vying for five spots. Politicians were not deterred by recent polls showing that the party may receive only three mandates in the elections. The top of the list is already reserved for party head Zevulun Orlev. The other three incumbents, Shaul Yahalom, Gila Finkelstein and Nissan Slomiansky were also running. By 8:30 p.m. some 80 percent of the 1,080 eligible central committee members had braved the elements to cast their votes. A party spokesman said it was unclear how the candidates would do because 500 of the central committee members were only elected last year. Solly Sacks of Kochav Yair walked away from the yeshiva clutching a large black umbrella. He said his five picks were a mix of new faces and incumbents. Another voter, who didn't want to be named, said he went for the new candidates because he trusted the incumbents would fare well anyway. Finkelstein was among those who had a large local contingent in front of the poll where a loudspeaker called out her name again and again. Inside the school gates a number of young women yelled out, "Gila, Gila is No. 1" and handed out fliers. Joseph Dolinsky, a factory owner from Haifa running for the first time, relied on his own vocal cords. He clasped the hands of each voter as they headed up the crowded staircase into the yeshiva and said, "Vote for me, I'm No. 9. I am the new bulldozer." His campaign literature included a photograph of Dolinsky perched above a bulldozer crane. Wearing a wool hat, Yaffa Perry, also a new candidate, said she hoped to join Finkelstein in the Knesset. She said it was time for the NRP to have more than one female politician. The polls closed at 10. Results were expected after midnight.