Jerusalem: Israel's main opposition party,
Kadima, Wednesday elected former defence minister and Army chief Shaul Mofaz, as its new leader who roundly defeated ex-foreign
minister and incumbent Tzipi Livni in the race for leadership.
Mofaz, 63, defeated Livni by a wide margin, winning 61.7
per cent of the vote in yesterday's primary. Livni, 53, got
37.23 per cent vote.
The much publicised vote failed to motivate voters from
participating in the ballots.
In his victory speech, the newly elected leader told
those gathered at the party headquarters that Kadima would
replace the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel's next
elections, and appealed people to have faith in the party's
new journey "to the Israel we lost, that we dreamt about, that
can be different."
He emphasised the need for a strong and united party
following the primaries, and called on Livni to join him
in the effort to "return Israel to the right path."
"Tzipi, your place is with us," Mofaz said.
The former Defence Minister, who supervised Israel's
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip during Ariel Sharon's
government but also used tough measures to curb Palestinian
attacks on Israel during the second intifada, spoke confidently of replacing Netanyahu in the run up to the party primaries to elect its leader.
Recent opinion polls however bely his optimism
showing that the party formed by Sharon after splitting from
Likud is losing support heavily to the centrist Labour party
and as per latest estimates may end up with only one-third of
the seats Likud is likely to win according to projections.
General elections are to be held by November 2013 in
Israel and Netanyahu, riding on a popularity wave, has denied
that he is keen to bring it forward.
Kadima currently holds 28 seats in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and is the largest party with one seat more than Netanyahu's ruling Likud party.
Mofaz has been recently talking about breaking the
deadlock on talks with the Palestinians and supporting the
immediate establishment of a provisional Palestinian state.
Livni, who just a few years ago was among the country's
most popular politicians as the foreign minister and routinely
showed up on lists of the world's most influential women, has
faced heavy criticism for what is widely seen as an
ineffective term as an opposition leader.
Speculations are rife that she may quit Kadima given
the bitter rivalry with Mofaz.
First Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 16:28