Israeli PM and Chairman of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured on October 29
Israeli Prime Minister and Chairman of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd during the Likud party’s central convention, on October 29, in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv. Likud party began casting votes in a leadership primary on Sunday ahead of a general election on January 22. © Menahem Kahana - AFP/File
Israeli PM and Chairman of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured on October 29
AFP
Last updated: November 25, 2012

Netanyahu's Likud chooses list for January election

Voting in Israel's ruling Likud party primary is to continue for a second day after computer glitches disrupted Sunday's polling, the party confirmed Sunday.

Earlier, Ofir Akunis, considered a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told AFP: "Voting will continue tomorrow (Monday) from 11.00 am (0900 GMT) until 9.00 pm (1900 GMT) in 53 polling stations.

"Results will come later that evening," he added.

"I hope that we will be able to find out why there were these computer problems which caused the prolonging of the vote," he said in Tel Aviv, where the party's elections committee and senior officials gathered.

Shortly afterward, a Likud statement confirmed the new times. The decision to add a second polling day had been made "unanimously" by the elections committee, it said.

Referring to "many computer failures" it said some polling stations had failed to process "even 10 percent" of those entitled to cast their ballot.

Party hopefuls are slugging it out to choose the frontrunners for a January 22 parliamentary race.

The primary, among Likud's 123,000 registered members, was to select a list of parliamentary candidates to be put to voters in the January general election.

Polling stations opened Sunday at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) and were scheduled to close at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) with results due out by midnight (2200 GMT).

But voting was later extended by two hours due to the technical glitches and the polls eventually closed for the night at midnight (2200) GMT, a Likud spokeswoman told AFP.

Local media said the extension was likely to benefit those in Netanyahu's camp, to the detriment of the party's far-right settler lobby.

Netanyahu's position as party leader was already confirmed by Likud's governing central committee in February.

Analysts are keen to see if the party tilts further to the right in response to public disaffection over Wednesday's truce deal. That deal ended Israel's eight-day Operation Pillar of Defence against Gaza militants, halting plans for a major ground operation.

The ballot will also be a test of the strength of the settler lobby, led by Moshe Feiglin, who said that Likud needed to reassure the right.

"Likud needs to return to the straight path, to end confusion about its values, to say: This is our land," he told reporters on Sunday.

Last week, the settler lobby published a front-page advert in the English-language Jerusalem Post ranking Likud candidates on the basis of their opposition to a Palestinian state and how many settlements they had helped build.

The vote comes just four days after Israel ended its Gaza campaign, accepting an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal with Hamas without sending troops in for a widely-expected ground operation.

According to a poll published on Friday in Maariv newspaper, 49 percent of respondents thought Israel should have continued the operation, while just under a third -- 31 percent -- agreed with the decision to accept a truce.

Netanyahu has insisted that Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza met all its objectives.

But the Maariv poll found that if an election were held now, Likud's joint list with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu would win only 37 seats, compared with the 43 projected in an earlier survey on October 29.

They hold 42 seats between them in the outgoing governing coalition which, including other smaller parties, holds 66 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

After Likud selects its election candidates in order of preference, an internal committee of Yisrael Beitenu will choose its own list of prospective MPs and the two parties will then draft a combined list.

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