According to initial official results from the Likud primaries on Tuesday, incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu is slated to continue as party chairman. With about 30,000 out of 37,635 ballots counted, Netanyahu far outstripped his competitors with 73% support among Likud voters - though Feiglin did better than some expected.
Running against Netanyahu for the party's top spot were Moshe Feiglin, leader of the Likud's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction and World Likud Chairman Danny Danon.
Feiglin, the former Zo Artzeinu founder and activist, surprised many winning a strong 23% of the vote - nearly twice as much as he won in the 2005 primaries, when he received 12.5%. Danon came in far behind with just 4% support.
The turnout for the elections reached just under 40% of the 94,700 registered party members, lower than the 42% recorded in the 2005 Likud primaries. Results are coming in from 100 polling stations throughout the nation. For the first time, voters were able to cast their ballot at any Likud ballot box, regardless of the voter's city of residence.
Netanyahu, the incumbent Likud chairman, was born in October 1949. In his political career, he has served as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Finance Minister under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.
The campaign manager for Likud candidate Moshe Feiglin, Michael Puah, filed a complaint with police on Tuesday claiming he was physically attacked by activists from Netanyahu campaign headquarters. The incident, according to Puah's complaint, took place in the town of Shoham when Puah tried to photograph the Netanyahu campaigners entering the Shoham polling station.
Puah said that he was attempting to prove that Likud MK Chaim Katz was using vehicles rented by the government-controlled Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to bring Netanyahu supporters to the voting stations. Aside from his duties as an MK, Katz is the chairman of the IAI labor union.
Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin, a Netanyahu supporter, said on Monday that Kadima activists in Jerusalem were helping Feiglin in the primaries. MK Rivlin did not offer proof for his claims, while similar claims made by other Likud activists have been proven inaccurate. Netanyahu said that senior Kadima members would like Feiglin to win the primaries, but he did not accuse Feiglin of actually receiving assistance from Kadima.
In a meeting with reporters last week, Likud officer Gadi Hareli claimed that the Likud primaries would be the most organized and the cleanest of any elections held in recent years. "I see it as part of the progress that the Likud is currently involved in," Hareli said.
(Photos: Ezra HaLevi)