The Likud Central Committee on Wednesday voted in favor of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's proposal to advance primaries for party leadership to December 31.
In addition to moving the primaries date forward, Netanyahu's proposal would allow the party chairperson to reserve the 11th and 24th spots on the Knesset list for candidates of his choosing, and would ensure four female candidates up to the 34th spot. It would also have reserved spots for regional candidates beginning from the 16th spot and have them appear alternatively in the list.
The number of eligible voters in the Likud Central Committee is 3,801 and of those, 2,413 members voted. 1,567 voted in favor, 835 were against and 11 abstained. Overall, 65% voted in favor of Netanyahu’s proposal.
Shortly after the conclusion of vote counting, Likud Central Committee chairman MK Danny Danon said that "the Likud has spoken in the most democratic way. I'm proud of the democracy in the Likud, the biggest movement in Israel."
"I call on all candidates to hold internal elections in the Likud which respect its members. Upon completion of the internal elections we will all stand in front of the left and the new alliance of Livni and Herzog,” he added.
Reportedly Netanyahu's push for early primaries is meant to prevent former Likud Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar from challenging him for leadership of the party.
Sa'ar, who stepped down last month to take a break from politics, could potentially be Netanyahu's main opponent to maintaining Likud leadership. He reportedly is preparing for a campaign, and may even establish a political faction of his own.
It was reported on Monday that Likud activists identified with Sa'ar had already gathered 500 signatures from party members needed to formally allow him to challenge Netanyahu.
Danon is also running against Netanyahu, and he submitted his candidacy on Monday.