Livni set to clean up in Kadima primaries

By Yaakov Katz, September 12, 2008

As the Kadima primaries enter their final lap this week, pressure is mounting on the two candidates with the least chances of winning to drop out of the race and help Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to sweep the vote in its first round.

The latest polls show Ms Livni defeating her main rival, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, by 20 per cent in Wednesday's primaries, the winner of which could become the next prime minister.

Ms Livni is tipped to receive 40 per cent of the vote, with Mr Mofaz in second place with 20 per cent.
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter are trailing with mainly single-digit percentages. Both have rejected offers from Ms Livni and Mr Mofaz to quit the race.

If a candidate does not obtain at least 40 per cent of the vote on September 17, a second round will be held the following week.

The party elections come after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced he would submit his resignation after the primaries and in response to the corruption investigations against him.

The winner of the primaries will become premier if he or she forms a new coalition, but the chances of this are deemed to be slim. If no coalition is formed, Israel will hold general elections, meaning that Mr Olmert could stay in office until as late as mid-2009.

Kadima MK Zeev Elkin said that Mr Mofaz stood the best chance of forming a coalition, together with the Charedi Shas party as well as smaller factions such as the Pensioners Party.

"The polls don't tell the truth," Mr Elkin told the JC.

"Anyone out in the field knows that it is a very close race and one that Mofaz can very well win."

The race took a negative turn this week after Mr Mofaz accused Ms Livni's campaign manager of misusing Holocaust survivor funds for election purposes.

Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner rejected the charges and told the JC that only Ms Livni could restore public faith in politics.

"Livni is the only candidate that represents a change in politics," he said. "Our organisation is working very hard and we are confident that in the end Livni will win."

Last updated: 4:12pm, September 11 2008