Mofaz to Run Again, for a Knesset Seat

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz will soon be facing another Kadima Party primary - this time, for a slot on his party's Knesset list.

Mofaz lost the party's leadership primary to Tzipi Livni last month by a mere 400 votes, thereby becoming the party's unofficial number two. Nevertheless, Kadima's bylaws state that everyone except the party chair must compete in the party-wide primary that will determine its Knesset slate.

Mofaz's supporters are likely to propose that the number-two spot be formally reserved for him, thereby sparing him the need to run. However, that would require amending the party's bylaws, which is a fairly complex procedure, and would probably not succeed unless Livni backed the idea.

Altogether, the race for "safe" seats on the party's Knesset slate is expected to be a drawn-out and vicious one. This is partly because Ehud Olmert hand-picked Kadima's slate before its first general election, in 2006, meaning that none of its ministers or Knesset members have ever competed in a Kadima primary before. Some have never run in any primary, so they will have to quickly learn the ropes; others moved to Kadima from other parties, and therefore have primary experience, but do not yet have well-oiled organizations in their new party, and must therefore now begin the exhausting work of recruiting new members and making deals.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that the party will earn as many seats this time around as it did in 2006, meaning that competition for "safe" slots at the top will be fierce.

In addition, the composition of the party's slate will largely determine the balance of forces between the Livni and Mofaz camps. Thus, both are expected to try to get as many of their loyalists as possible elected.

Finally, Kadima's woes are exacerbated by the fact that while Olmert is no longer its chairman, he is still prime minister, which enables him to exert considerable influence over party affairs.

Today, for instance, he will deliver the diplomatic address that traditionally opens the Knesset's winter session, and his speech will be viewed, both internationally and by many party members, as reflecting the party's positions, even if Livni, who will be its prime ministerial candidate in the coming election, disagrees with him.

Currently, Kadima has some 70,000 registered members. However, its Knesset candidates will be free to try to enroll new members until November 30.