At 10:00 am local time this morning around 200 polling stations will open across Israel and 95,000 Kadima party members will be able to choose the next party leader. Official results are not expected until at least 1:00 am, but a Kadima spokesman has said the winner will be known earlier based on voter turnout from the candidates’ respective strongholds.
The primaries pit the party’s chairperson for the past three and a half years, Tzipi Livni, against MK Shaul Mofaz. At this stage it is difficult to predict the outcome of primaries, as polls show the candidates are neck and neck going into the vote.
The two politicians ran against each other once before, in the party’s 2008 primaries. Livni received only 431 votes more than Mofaz, or about 1.5 percent. Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter also ran in those primaries, garnering together about 6,000 votes, or 15 percent. This time around, however, Sheetrit and Dichter have dropped out of the race — and endorsed Mofaz, perhaps tipping the balance in his favour.
We’ve reached the moment of truth,” Mofaz declared yesterday. “I feel confident, but we can’t be apathetic. I hear the forecasts about a low turnout at the polls, and I call upon all party members −come and vote!”
In a recorded message, Livni called on party members to support her: “This is a struggle for all of us −Israelis, Zionists who want to live and raise our children in an advanced, free country. Should we let despair and apathy keep us at home, we are liable to wake up in the morning and find a leader who doesn’t really represent and doesn’t really promise a change from Netanyahu.”
Beyond the specific question of whether Livni or Mofaz will win, looms the larger question of the party’s future, its unity and the political future of the candidates. Mofaz has announced he plans to remain in Kadima no matter what the results are, but Livni has refrained from making such a promise. When asked by journalists what would happen should she lose the primary, Livni refused to respond. Insiders, however, speculate that she would not remain in a Kadima party led by Mofaz, but would remain in politics.