Top Likud Minister: Party Primaries Must Be Stopped Over Voting Malfunctions

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar calls ongoing elections 'a farce'; Netanyahu mulling proposal to stop use of electronic voting, continue with ballot voting later this week.

The Likud party primaries must be postponed due to widespread reports of malfunctions in polling stations across the country, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said on Sunday, calling the ongoing voting process “a farce.”

Problems were reported at locations including Jerusalem’s main polling station -- the International Convention Centers, where 80 computerized voting systems were shut down -- and at the polling station in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Yad Eliyahu, which was also shut down.

Other locations with reported malfunctions were Ramat Gan, Ashdod, Gan Yavne and Mt. Hebron Regional Council.

Likud officials indicated that most of the malfunctions have been fixed by now, and that it was possible to vote in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv polling stations.

However, reports indicated that problems persisted elsewhere. Upon arriving at a polling station in Rishon Letzion, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom was met by angry party activists. Shalom told them that Prime Minister Benjamin “Netanyahu is stressed.

Amid continued errors, Sa’ar urged the party to cancel Sunday’s vote, saying that “the election process taking currently taking place is a farce. It must be stopped and held at another time.”

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke with Netanyahu, offering to stop the computerized elections process and move on to casting individual ballots later this week. Netanyahu is expected to weigh the proposal in the coming hours.

Commenting on malfunctions earlier in the day, Minister Dan Meridor said: “If it goes on like this, we won’t be able to proceed with voting today,” adding that “supporters are coming, and they won’t let them come in and vote. They’ll just give up and go home."

On Sunday morning,  Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin personally experienced the polling station issues, when a malfunctioning voting machine caused him to walk out of the station in frustration. He later returned to the station and was eventually able to vote.

“Several people who have come in to vote and were unable to do so decided to leave. What can we do?” asked a voting official at one of the affected stations.

Some 123,000 registered Likud members were scheduled to vote in Sunday’s party primary ahead of the January 22 general election. Veteran ministers such as Meridor and Minister Benny Begin are expected to struggle to survive the vote, while newcomers and young MKs hope to achieve a high position on the party’s slate.

State Comptroller issues warning over Likud primaries

Also on Sunday, it was revealed that State Comptroller Yosef Shapira sent a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, advising the officials against possible attempts by Likud MK Haim Katz to influence the votes of workers at Israel Aerospace Industries.

In the letter, sent last week, Shapira added that the actions could be considered a criminal bribe since the workers were allegedly transported to polling stations during a workday.

Thousands of IAI workers make up a considerable part of Katz’s pool of voters. Shapira chose to intervene in the Likud elections, despite the fact that he has no legal authority to enforce the issue, following recent complaints brought to his attention.

Shapira wrote that he “found it necessary to forewarn the IAI’s mangers that the alleged behavior could be considered an illegal contribution that is punishable by criminal sanctions.

“However, the enforcement of the issue does not lie mainly in the hands of the State Comptroller. As a result, I bring this appeal to your attention and immediate care. Past State Comptroller’s Office findings bolster suspicions raised by the appellant and emphasize the need for preventative action,” Shapira added.