Due in part to inclement weather, only 20 percent of the 125,000 registered Likud voters have cast ballots in the party primaries as of 530 PM Tuesday.  This is a far cry from the 100% that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for after casting the first vote earlier this morning.

“If the inactive majority stays home, we get an inaccurate picture” of what party activists want. “If everyone comes and votes, we get a clear picture,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s contender, Moshe Feiglin, requested that polls remain open later because many polling stations, especially West Bank settlements that comprise his voter-base, did not open on time.  ”Things have been done to prevent our supporters from casting their ballots. I hope the problem has been rectified,” Yediot Acharonot quoted him as saying.  Polls will remain open until 10 PM.

The Likud primaries come just two months before the main opposition party, Kadima, holds theirs.  Kadima party Chairwoman Tzipi Livni announced mid-January that her party’s internal elections will be held in at the end of March.

Livni will defend her chairwomanship principally from former Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz.  A margin of only 1.1% separated the two in the last primaries in September 2008.  The winner of the upcoming elections will not only lead Kadima, but will likely be Netanyahu’s main competitor in the next national elections.

Mofaz served as chief of staff from 1998 to 2002, and upon his resignation immediately was appointed defense minister by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  Until 2005 he and Netanyahu were both in Likud, but Mofaz joined Sharon when he formed the Kadima party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a press conference in which he expressed his disappointment in the low voter turnout.

“Many party members feel as though there’s no need to come and vote because it’s obvious that the prime minister will win the primaries,” he said to Channel 2 news.  ”I am not worried about the outcome or who will win, but I am interested in seeing as many loyal Likudniks coming out to vote as possible.”

The last Likud primaries, held in August 2007, fielded an equally meager turnout of only 55% of the registered party members.  Though this year’s showing might inflate Moshe Feiglin’s percentage of the vote, it is nonetheless unlikely that he will unseat Netanyahu.

Voter turnout in the Likud primary elections reached 27% as of 630 PM, Yediot Acharonot reported.  Voter complacency in an election whose outcome — a Netanyahu victory — appears to be fait accompli seems to be the cause of the low poll figures.

In a press conference earlier this afternoon, Netanyahu implored his constituents: “Don’t stay home, don’t be complacent.  Come vote, express support.”

 

Polls will remain open until 11 PM, not 10 PM, announced the Likud party’s central voting committee.  Inclement weather, low voter turnout, and opening delays at polling stations that resulted in turning voters away persuaded Likud officials to allow voters to come later.  Even as late as 730 PM, however, Yediot Acharonot reported a total turnout of 32% of Likud members.

The low voter turnout is expected to give Moshe Feiglin, the far-right contender for the chairmanship, an unexpected edge against the incumbent, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

 

Barely 35 percent of registered Likudniks made it to the polls for the party primaries, Israeli Army Radio reported at 830 PM.  Benjamin Netanyahu’s ploy for a vote of confidence from Likud supporters predicted success but did not predict the weather.  Low temperatures and scattered showers kept voters at home.

Some Likud supporters voted — just not for Netanyahu or his competitor Moshe Feiglin.  Instead, they voted for Migron, a West Bank settlement deemed illegal by the Supreme Court which is slated for demolition.

Euromideastnews posted a report about this vocal minority of disenchanted Likudniks:

 

With polls closing in an hour, and voter turnout for the Likud primaries reaching 42%, a last minute push by either candidate’s supporters could make the difference.

The lower the voter turnout, the smaller the margin between Moshe Feiglin and Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Yediot Acharonot.

According to Israeli Army Radio, the primary results will be released after midnight.

 

The Likud primaries are over and the candidates nervously await the results.  Pleas by candidates Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Feiglin might have spurred some voters to go to the poll, nonetheless, the total turnout remained below 50 percent at the 11 PM deadline.  Israeli Army Radio reported that the final tally as the polls closed reached 46% of the approximately 125,000 registered Likud party members.

The Likud body responsible for conducting the elections announced that ten polling stations will remain open an additional hour in order to receive last minute votes before the total is tabulated.  The late-night polls are located in Kiryat Motzkin, Rahat, Haifa, Safed, Tirat HaCarmel, Nivatim, Dalia, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council.