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An Ethiopian immigrant who was yesterday narrowly elected to Likud's 30th slot in the party's primary will apparently have to step down in favor of a Russian immigrant, who received fewer votes.

Likud regulations hold that the party's 30th slot must be reserved for immigrants who arrived in Israel after 1985 - Eleli Adamasso, however, immigrated from Ethiopia in 1983. He will probably be replaced by former Beitar Jerusalem chairman, Vladimir Shkalar, who lost to Adamasso by 50 votes.

Technical stipulations aside, Adamasso's achievement Tuesday surprised many of Likud's Russian immigrants, who expected a member of their community to be automatically voted into the slot.

The surprise was well reflected in Tuesday's lead headline of Izerus, a local Russian-language daily. "Benjamin Netanyahu's failure: The Russian slot went to an Ethiopian!"

Besides Shkalar, the number 30 slot is the focus of a struggle between Benny Briskin, a Russian immigrant considered a close ally of Netanyahu, and Assia Antov, who belongs to the camp of Moshe Feiglin, Netanyahu's chief rival within the Likud.

The Izerus article explains in a somber tone that "the native Israelis embraced the Ethiopian candidate, who helped him beat the odds."

The article goes on to suggest that Russian-speaking politicians who were displeased with Netanyahu's Likud leadership made deals that served Adamasso in the elections. A commentary in the paper blames the Russian immigrants' inability to present a unified front.

In addition to Shkalar, Likud's list for the February 10 election features two other immigrants from the former Soviet Union: Yuli Edelstein and Ze'ev Elkin, who crossed over from Kadima to Likud's 21st slot.