Significant irregularities have surfaced in last week’s Likud party primaries, including multiple cases of specific candidates receiving more votes in some locales than the total number of ballots cast in those places, Channel 12 news reported on Sunday.
The final results of the vote, which determined the ruling party’s slate for the April 9 national elections, saw significant changes in the party list, with a shuffle in all five top slots behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who automatically heads the list and did not run in the primaries.
According to the report, in the community of Mitzpe Jericho, although there were only 153 registered Likud voters, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis received 229 votes in the primaries, helping him to finish in 14th place overall. In the city of Bnei Brak, there were 334 registered voters but Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev received 436 votes.
Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant received 780 votes in the city of Kiryat Malachi, where there were only 516 registered voters, while Transportation Minister Israel Katz got 1,061 votes in the city of Netivot, despite there only being 1,047 registered voters.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin picked up 73 votes from the Hebron Hills region, where there were only 67 Likud voters, the report said.
Although final vote counts have not yet been published, Likud has declared each candidate’s placement, with some slots separated by only hundreds of votes.
Katz came in second behind Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who gained the most votes overall. Regev placed 6th, Gallant placed 7th, and Elkin 12th.
The Likud party responded to the report in a statement, saying, “The official results will be published in the coming days after all examinations of the matter are completed.
“The Likud is proud of the primaries and the fact that it supervises itself in a direct and meticulous manner,” the party said in the statement.
Some 119,000 Likud party members were eligible to vote in a complicated ranking system for national and district candidates in 113 polling stations across the country. Fifty-eight percent of those eligible eventually voted, a jump from the 52% turnout in the last primaries held in 2014.
To obtain the final election slate, the list of primary winners is combined with reserved positions elected in special regional races, as well as minority candidates given guaranteed slots.
A total of 69,719 voters cast ballots, each ballot composed of a list of 12 preferred candidates, for a total of 836,628 candidate votes cast, though no candidate can win more than 69,719.
In total, 142 candidates competed for the top spots on the electoral slate, all hoping to score high enough to ensure entry to the 120-seat Knesset. Among incumbent MKs and influential newcomers, there was intense competition for the highest spots on the ticket, which all but guarantee a position at the cabinet table.
An over-abundance of votes was also a problem in the last Likud primaries held at the end of 2014, leading to two recounts of votes to settle disputes on some placements.