Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his Likud primaries win - Tomer Appelbaum - Jan 31, 2012
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his Likud primaries win. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the Likud party's primary. With 85 percent of the votes tallied early Wednesday the PM beat his rival Moshe Feiglin 75 percent to 24 percent.

The results followed a tense day of voting on Tuesday, characterized by a much lower voter turnout than Netanyahu had hoped or expected, prompting the premier to organize an impromptu press conference to urge voters to arrive at the nationwide polling stations.

“When I ask [Likud] activists why the percentage is so low, they respond by telling me that there is no need to vote because I will win,” Netanyahu said, emphasizing that he wants “as many Likudniks as possible to vote.”

Netanyahu warned his party that when people do not vote, they allow others who do not vote Likud in the general elections to “distort the picture.” Upon finishing his speech, Netanyahu headed to Be’er Sheva and the Negev town of Omer with his entourage in order to motivate voters.

In the previous Likud leadership primary in August 2007, Netanyahu beat Feiglin by 73.2 per cent to 23.4 per cent.

After casting his own vote early Tuesday, Netanyahu issued a call out Likud members to "come and vote for me, I know most of you support me."

"If people stay home, there will be no way to express this great support, and the way that I lead the Likud, which has garnered such support among the members of Knesset and the ministers. The more voters that turn out, the clearer it will be how great the support is for me," he said.

Some 125.000 Likud members are eligible to vote, in more than 150 countrywide polling stations. While polls were supposed to close at 10 P.M., Likud's elections committee allowed some stations to stay upon until as late as midnight.