Jewish Home primaries kick off after challenge rejected
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Jewish Home primaries kick off after challenge rejected

Some 77,000 members of nationalist party to choose Knesset slate after court nixes attempt to delay vote over procedural issues

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Professor Yisrael Auman, a Nobel Prize laureate, speaks during a Jewish Home election event in Tel Aviv on January 12, 2015. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)
Professor Yisrael Auman, a Nobel Prize laureate, speaks during a Jewish Home election event in Tel Aviv on January 12, 2015. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Jewish Home members were set  to vote for the party’s Knesset slate Wednesday, even as a court challenge over voting procedures threatened to derail the primary election.

Eyal Bar Lev and Daniel Bashari, party members, obtained a court injunction Tuesday to halt the vote, but on Wednesday morning the Lod District Court rejected their claims and allowed the vote to go ahead as planned.

Some 77,000 party members are eligible to vote on the party list, which has 37 candidates competing for realistic places in the 20th Knesset.

Only a few seats in realistic spots are actually up for grabs, with the rest either reserved by the party leadership or slated for members of the Tekuma faction within the party, which held its primary earlier this week.

Polls show the party garnering seats some 15 seats in parliamentary elections scheduled for March 17th.

A handful of the 262 voting stations at 126 locations across the country were to open in the morning, with the bulk opening their doors at 3:00 p.m. Polling booths were scheduled to close at 10:00 p.m. local time.

Turning to the court Tuesday, Bar Lev had demanded that invitations to participate in the primaries be sent to each of the party members and also that the voting slips be brought to a central location for counting under the eyes of observers, to ensure a fair democratic process.

On Tuesday the court ordered that the elections be put on hold until the concerns were resolved.

Economy Minister and Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett. (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash 90)
Economy Minister and Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett. (Photo credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash 90)

With barely two hours until polling stations opened, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, the party’s leader, attempted to persuade Bar Lev and Bashari to waive their objections and allow voting to begin on time.

Party officials had downplayed the challenge as standard pre-election maneuvering.

“It is a standard spin before every primary, and that goes to show that we are maintaining the party traditions,” an unnamed party source told Israeli news site Ynet before the court decision. “The elections will be held as planned.”

According to Ynet, the largest segment of Jewish Home voters — some 41% — come from the central region of the country where most of Israel’s population live. Another 25% are from the periphery and 22% are from West Bank communities where the party has strong support.

Jewish Home had also increased its support among younger Israelis, with over half its eligible voters under the age of 34, and 22% above the age of 50. In 2012 only 34% of party members were under the age of 34 and about the same number were above the age of 50.

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