Tags: Netanyahi | party | Likud | winner

Netanyahu Appears Winner of Party Vote

Thursday, 29 Apr 2010 10:37 AM


JERUSALEM - Activists reported an unexpectedly high turnout in the first hours of the Likud central committee vote on Thursday.

As of 2 p.m., approximately one-third of the 2,500 Likud central committee members have already passed their votes as to whether or not to amend the party's constitution. Activists said that voting booths throughout the country have been peaceful.

The high turnout is expected to benefit Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who worked hard in recent days to encourage committee members to vote in favor of the change, which would effectively delay party internal elections by 20 months.

Veteran central committee activists said that the highest levels of turnout were expected later this evening, when voters finished work.

As the polls opened throughout the country in an important Likud Party vote on Thursday morning, Netanyahu held a press conference, calling on party members to go to the polls to help push off internal elections.

Netanyahu: 'I trust the members'

“I trust the members, and I believe in them that they will do rise and do what needs to be done,” Netanyahu told the press, before casting his own vote in Likud's Tel Aviv headquarters.

The vote will determine whether or not the Likud constitution will be changed to allow the party to hold internal elections up to three years following general elections. Any amendment to the constitution requires a two-thirds majority.

Netanyahu said he is in favor of pushing off internal elections because the party needs to focus on national matters.

“We are a national movement started by Menachem Begin; we are for the state and for the IDF and for true peace, and that is what we have to focus on,” Netanyahu said. “If the vote does not go as I want it to, we will have to dedicate months to an internal process in the Likud, and now is not the time to do that.”

“I think most Likud members know that this isn't the time,” he continued.

When asked if it is undemocratic to change the Likud Party's constitution at this juncture, Netanyahu answered, “In a democracy, there are legal and agreed-upon ways to make changes. We are one of the most organized and unified movements in the country; our way to do it is with a majority of two-thirds. Believe me – it is very, very difficult.”

Netanyahu worked throughout Wednesday in an attempt to encourage the 2,525 central committee members to turn up Thursday at the 28 polling places set up nationwide. Referring to Moshe Feiglin's Jewish Leadership movement, Netanyahu emphasized that failure to vote would lead to a victory for a “marginal, extreme group” within the ruling party.

In an Israel Radio interview, Feiglin accused Netanyahu of planning a second disengagement on Israel Radio.

“It seems that Netanyahu thinks that a true Likudnik would split up Jerusalem,” Feiglin said. “This vote is about Jerusalem; not Feiglin, not Netanyahu.”

Feiglin was particularly concerned that pushing off Likud internal elections would give Netanyahu unlimited power to disengage from Jerusalem without approval from the Likud.“If, G-d forbid, his proposal will pass,” Feiglin said, “there is nothing to stop Netanyahu from doing what Sharon did, only not in Gush Katif, but in Jerusalem.”

Feiglin also accused Netanyahu of “stealing this election.” He elaborated, “have you ever heard of elections without observers? With traveling voting booths?”

No elections have been held for the Likud Central Committee or for the party’s other governing body since 2002, in spite of a provision in the party’s constitution mandating that such a vote be held among all the party’s 100,000 members once every four years. Since then, 500 of the original 3,000 committee members elected in 2002 have joined Kadima, and the lack of elections has made it nearly impossible for any would-be leaders under the age of 30 to gain policy-shaping positions in the party.

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