Kadima MK Avi Dichter officially withdrew from the Kadima party primary on Thursday, and declared his support for Shaul Mofaz. Dichter has been seen as a long shot candidate since the beginning of the campaign, and polls have shown him trailing behind opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Mofaz.
In the speech announcing his withdrawal, Dichter said: "I understand, and Mofaz understands, that this primary is more than just a race for the leadership of Kadima, but for the future of Kadima, and when I hear 'primaries for the future of Kadima,' a feeling of responsibility rises within me, and as far as I'm concerned the challenge is to bring Kadima back to its original idea, the Kadima of Ariel Sharon's legacy."
Although Dicther's withdrawal from the race will undoubtedly benefit Mofaz, who should be able to claim some of Dicther's would-be voters, it is not unthinkable that some might throw their support behind Livni. As the field narrows to only two candidates, it seems that a second round of primaries is unlikely as well, and that a clear winner will emerge after this coming Tuesday's election.
Despite the boost Mofaz received on Thursday, it found that Livni was backed by 46 percent of Kadima members while Mofaz was backed by 36 percent. The poll was reported by journalist and blogger Tal Schneider and conducted by market researcher Dafna Goldberg-Anaby. The results are in line with a poll conducted among Kadima members by Dichter's campaign two weeks ago. Still, many politicians and political analysts say they expect Mofaz to win the primary. In any case, many pollsters have serious doubts about surveys on party primaries, which have often proved inaccurate.
Mofaz accepted Dicther's support by saying: "The message to be learned here is a message of unity and leadership. We will unite Kadima, I will not let anyone divide Kadima; all of the MKs supporting Livni are good people, we will unite them the day after, and no one will threaten to divide Kadima."
In response to Dichter's withdrawal, Livni said that his "expected pairing with Mofaz shows that they understand that Kadima members prefer Livni over both of them. Dicther's zigzagging breaches all of his promises, together with Mofaz, who is anxious as the decision approaches, they are expressing their goal to be surplus weight in Netanyahu's government."
The winner – Livni or Mofaz – will have their work cut out for them, as Kadima has lost nearly half of its party strength, according to recent polls.
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