On Second Day of Voting, Problems Continue to Plague Likud Primaries

Likud heads at West Bank branches ask for yet another day of voting, claiming there were still major problems in polling stations.

Problems continued to mar the voting on the second day of Likud primary elections on Monday, after computer glitches on Sunday led to the extension of voting by a second day. According to new estimates, the result of the vote will only be published after midnight on Monday.

The extension of the voting is not thought to have increased the voter turnout by a great deal, according to estimates on Monday evening. By 5:00 P.M., voter turnout was 55 percent, or 67,800 Likud members.

A series of computer glitches on Sunday prevented orderly voting in numerous locations, and by order of the party’s elections committee, 36 polling places all over the country were reopened at 11 A.M. on Monday to allow party members who couldn’t vote on Sunday to cast their ballots. The polling stations were set to remain open until 9:00 P.M. However, the Likud elections committee decided later on Monday to extend voting until 10 P.M. in the West Bank, and later also in all other polling stations.

The precise location of those polling stations remained vague until very late Sunday night. A senior Likud official claimed that party ministers were trying to block the reopening of polls in areas where they knew their support was weak.

According to this official, ministers who knew they had not been included in any deals, particularly those arranged by the power groups on the ideological right, pressed hard to prevent the reopening of polling places in the settlements.

Despite the opposition of some Likud ministers, three polling stations were opened in the West Bank on Monday, following a request by Likud faction chairman Ze'ev Elkin to make sure that polls would function there. These three were in the Samaria Regional Council, the Binyamin Regional Council and the south Hebron Hills.
The heads of the Likud party's Binyamina and Samaria branches appealed to the party's tribunal on Monday to add yet another day of voting. They claimed that on Monday there were still major problems in voting in the West Bank. According to the lawyer who presented their appeal, not extending voting was "a transparent attempt to skew the election results."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched another recorded message to party members on Monday, urging them to vote, in an effort to increase voter turnout. But a senior Likud minister said Sunday that he didn’t think the voting rate would be much higher than it had been on the first day of voting.

“Voter participation rate in this election has actually been impressive until now, higher than in previous elections,” the minister said. “I’m not convinced that there are any more masses of voters that can be persuaded to come out and vote. We’re essentially talking about a symbolic gesture being made toward those who were unable to exercise their democratic right yesterday and left the polling stations aggravated.”

It’s generally assessed that higher voter participation dilutes the effectiveness of back-room deals and the “termination lists” drawn up by some party activists.

“People who vote freely and don’t get involved in deals are spoiled voters,”said a party official. “They don’t come to the polls when it’s raining, and if they see a long line at a polling station that’s not functioning they prefer to go home. By contrast, ‘vote contractors’ transport their voters to the polls no matter what.”

A high voter turnout is expected to strengthen the ministers from the party’s shaky “liberal” wing, including Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan, and is also likely to help MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, after the major vote contractors, among them MK Haim Katz, decided not to support him.