MK Shaul Mofaz was elected on Tuesday to be the new chairman of the Kadima party. Former COS Mofaz beat his rival MK Tzipi Livni, who has headed the party since 2008, and will assume the position of opposition leader.
According to final results, as announced by the Chairwoman of Kadima’s Election Committee, Judge Edna Beckenstein, Mofaz received 23,987 votes making 61.7 percent of the vote, and Livni received 14,516 votes making up 37.2 percent.
Shortly after the judge's announcement, Mofaz made his victory speech in which he said, “This evening Kadima won, and I thank each of you for your support.”
Mofaz, who invited Livni’s supporters to join him on stage, said, “This evening marks the emergence of the alternative government to the bad government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Out of this evening comes out one Kadima, Kadima which is the largest party in the Knesset, the leader of the opposition which renews the hope of most of Israel’s citizens.”
Directly addressing Livni, Mofaz said, “I call on Livni to stand with us in this war. I want to say from this podium to Tzipi Livni: Tzipi, you belong with us.”
The polls closed at 10:00 p.m. Israel time and as of 9:00 p.m. only about 38 percent of party members had exercised their right to vote in the primary. Analysts predicted earlier that a low turnout would likely play out in Mofaz’s favor.
Shortly after 1:00 a.m., Livni made a short statement to the media and said, “I want to thank the volunteers and all the members of Kadima who gave me their trust.”
Former foreign minister Livni said that she called Mofaz and congratulated him on his victory but refused to answer questions, saying, “It is late at night and time to go to sleep.” She added that she does not currently intend to make announcements regarding her political future.
Kadima faction chairman, MK Dalia Itzik, also called Mofaz and congratulated him on his victory. Itzik said that she hopes that Livni will remain in the party.
On paper, Kadima is Israel's largest party, having won one more Knesset Member than Likud in the last general elections. Since Livni’s failure to form a coalition government or join a national unity government, the party has fallen into disfavor. This was blamed on her leadership, which was said by many to be uninspiring.
Polls have shown that no matter who wins the neck-to-neck leadership contest, the real winner may be Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the nationalist camp.
All political surveys indicate that Kadima’s strength in the Knesset would crumble if elections were held today, no matter who heads the party. Labor, the Likud, the national religious parties and a new party headed by Yair Lapid would pick up the crumbs.