Israel’s Livni Leads Ahead of Kadima Vote

Opinion polls on Friday showed Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni leading her closest rival by at least 15 points ahead of next week’s ruling party election to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has stressed he would quit immediately following the vote.

The two polls were more favorable to Livni than another survey published on Thursday which showed her lead over Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz narrowed to just under five percentage points.

A poll of registered Kadima party voters published by the Maariv daily saw Livni taking 46 percent of the ballots on Wednesday, with Mofaz scoring 28 percent.

The Yediot Aharonot showed Livni garnering 47 percent and Mofaz, a hawkish former general, taking 32 percent.

The polls suggest the Kadima leadership contest will be decided in the first round, with Livni easily passing the 40 percent hurdle to avoid a September 24 run-off.

But experts say the reliability of opinion polls is uncertain in the case of a comparatively small and young party such as Kadima, which has never before held a leadership election.

A poll published on Thursday indicated Livni would get just under 40 percent of the vote, with a lead of about five points over Mofaz.

The vote will be on Wednesday, but would go to a September 24 second round if no candidate gets at least 40 percent.

"I will resign immediately after the primary and recommend to the president to assign the task of forming the government to whoever is elected in my place," Olmert told a party meeting on Thursday.

"The transfer of power will be responsible and stately. I will not use any political manipulation that serves one person or another," he said.

Olmert, who has been dogged by allegations of graft, had already announced on July 30 that he would step down.

The Kadima election was called to replace Olmert who is dogged by several police corruption investigations that could see him indicted on criminal charges.
 
(Agencies via Alarabiya)

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