Preliminary results: Mofaz leading Livni in Kadima primary

127 of 197 polling stations have been counted so far; election marred by low voter turnout; Mofaz confident in victory, says he has planned out first hundred days as Kadima chairman.

Mofaz shakes hands with supporters 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Mofaz shakes hands with supporters 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was ahead of incumbent Tzipi Livni in Tuesday’s Kadima leadership race to become the party’s fourth leader, according to preliminary results.
By press time, votes at 127 of the 197 polling stations had been counted. Mofaz won 64 of them and Livni 37.
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon split the Likud and established Kadima in November 2005. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert replaced Sharon following his strokes and Livni took over after Olmert was forced to quit the post due to allegations of corruption.
Mofaz was expected to come to Kadima’s headquarters in Petah Tikva to deliver a victory speech after press time. His associates said that in the speech, he would call for unity in the party and try to persuade Livni to remain in Kadima.
“The day after [my victory], I will already start efforts to form Israel’s next government,” Mofaz told supporters in Beersheba on a tour of southern polling stations Tuesday afternoon. “I have already formed a team to work on my first hundred days [as Kadima chairman].”
Sources close to Mofaz said they spoke to all 12 MKs who supported Livni in the race in recent days and they all said they would remain in the party under Mofaz’s leadership.
Livni might have hinted about her future when she told reporters at her campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning that she “doesn’t believe in opposition inside parties” and that she formed Kadima and believes in its future.
When she was asked by Army Radio whether she would stay in the party if she lost, she said, “I am sick of that question.
I don’t think the public cares what happens to me personally if I don’t win. It’s a subject that only the press cares about.”
The election was marred by a low turnout. Only a little more than 40 percent of the party’s 95,000 members came out to vote on the rainy day. By contrast, in the first round of voting in September’s Labor leadership race, the turnout was 67%.
Throughout the day, both sides complained about wrongdoing and political tricks.
Mofaz’s campaign said there were ballots for MK Avi Dichter in several polling stations even though he quit the race.
Mofaz complained about a Beit Jann polling station in a building owned by a Livni supporter with a Livni campaign office meters away.
Sources close to Livni complained that Likud activists were interfering in the race on Mofaz’s behalf.
The first complaints over the election procedure were lodged just minutes after polls opened.
The head of Kadima’s Central Elections Committee, judge Edna Beckenstein, filed a police complaint against Mofaz’s camp over mass SMS and phone campaigns that appeared intended to deceive voters, a Kadima statement said.
The message, sent Tuesday at 1 a.m. by the Mofaz camp to Livni supporters, invited them to vote a day after after the primary, saying, “Reminder: On Wednesday, March 28, we arrive at the polls, vote and win with Tzipi Livni.”
Beckenstein called the incident “an act that is meant to deceitfully alter the elections” and called on police to immediately open an investigation.
Later in the day, Livni accused Mofaz of initiating a telephone campaign supplying false information to Livni supporters.
According to a statement released by her office, voters in the ongoing Kadima election received phone calls from people identifying themselves as Livni supporters and telling them that they have until 11:30 p.m. to vote – ballots actually closed at 10 p.m. – and that they could do so at polling stations that were not their own.
Livni’s campaign also complained that posters and signs supporting Livni outside a polling station in Tiberias were torn down overnight between Monday and Tuesday. Livni’s office registered official complaints with authorities overseeing the voting process and with the Israel Police over the incidents.
“We call on the Mofaz campaign to instruct their activists to refrain from any dirty tricks and acts of violence,” a spokesman for the Livni campaign said.
Olmert said at the J Street Conference in Washington that he believes the winner of this contest could be the next prime minister.