{Investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak ads one detail not in this piece, which is that Judge Arbel lied and said that both major candidates – Livni and Mofaz – asked that the extra half an hour be allowed for voting. – DB]

There were multiple irregularities in Israel’s Kadima party primary elections last week in which Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was said to have been victorious by a slim margin, according to an internal Kadima investigation obtained by WND.

“We cannot know who won this election. We need a new election,” Kadima Knesset Member Ze’ev Elkin told WND.

Following Livni’s purported victory – by just 431 votes – ceremonial Israeli President Shimon Peres is expected to formally ask Livni to form a stable governing coalition. That means that if she can recruit enough political parties to maintain a plurality of the Knesset’s 120 seats, she would finish out Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s term in office, becoming prime minister in his place until new elections are held as scheduled late next year.

But a Kadima probe has found a number of problems, including possible illegalities, with last week’s election, prompting Elkin to petition Kadima’s internal court to hold off appointing Livni as head of the party until a new election can be held.

According to the final tally, Livni won the Kadima primary election with 43.1 percent of the vote, or 16,936 registered Kadima members. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz came in a very close second with 42 percent, or 16,505 votes.

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Among the voting problems discovered by Kadima:

* According to election committee protocols, 39,872 people cast votes but only 39,615 votes were actually counted, meaning 257 ballots may be missing.

* In one polling station in the city of Rahat, the entire station’s ballots were disqualified after a man tore up the contents of a voting box and scattered hundreds of envelopes that were inside. The ballot box reportedly contained 430 votes, one vote shy of the margin of Livni’s win.

* There were 70 polling stations in which ballots were unaccounted for.

* In 10 polling stations, the number of votes cast was more than the number of Kadima members who were slated to take part in the election in the given station.

* In a decision Elkin says was not coordinated with the other candidates, Kadima election committee chairman Dan Arbel granted Livni a requested extension of 30 minutes voting time at Kadima polling stations around the country.

The Kadima probe estimates the extra 30 minutes was key for Livni, because it allowed many Muslim voters to take part in the elections following a feast that ended the day of Ramadan fasting. Livni, who has been leading negotiations with the Palestinian Authority aimed at creating a Palestinian state before January, trounced Mofaz among Muslim and Arab voters in many villages.

The Kadima probe concluded voters casting ballots in the last 30 minutes may have been influenced by the Israeli news media, which during the last 45 minutes of the vote wrongly announced that exit data showed Livni beat Mofaz by a wide margin of 10 percent.

“In the last 45 minutes, people who went to vote likely knew from Israeli radio or television that Livni won, so supporters of Mofaz may have decided there was no reason to vote for him,” Elkin told WND.

Elkin, who is a confident of Mofaz, said if the Kadima court rejected his petition for new elections, he would take the case to the Israeli public court system. Elkin pointed out there is precedent for reelections in Israeli parties. In 2001 in the Labor party primaries, then-Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer won a court case that contested the outcome of party primaries which claimed Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg won by 1,088 votes – more votes than Livni’s 431.

Livni’s team countered Elkin’s petition by pointing out Mofaz already conceded the election.

Elkin might not have enough time to affect the appointment of Livni. In what would be the speediest round in Israeli history of presidential consultation in forming a government, Peres last night already tasked Livni to form a new government.

If Livni goes on to lead the country, she will hardly have a mandate, as she was elected not by the majority of the Israeli public, but in internal party elections in which less than 0.5 percent of Israelis took part. More than 10 times that number vote in Israel’s version of “American Idol.”

Did 15,000 Arabs determine Israel’s new leader

Assuming the Kadima election results are upheld, the question becomes who voted in the Kadima primary, in which registered party members who are regular citizens took part.

About 14,000 of Kadima’s 74,000 registered voters are not Jewish, according to polling data, including 6,900 registered Arab Druze and 4,600 Muslim Arabs. The rest are largely Bedouin tribe members.

Poll stations reported that non-Jewish Kadima voters evidenced the highest turnout. Only about 50 percent of all eligible Kadima voters took part in the election.

Kadima member and Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee, who coordinates party issues related to the non-Jewish sector, estimated that many Muslim voters would take part in the elections at night, following a feast that ended the day of Ramadan fasting.

“After the feast, voters will arrive (to polling stations) en masse,” Whbee told Israel’s YnetNews.

Polling data showed the vast majority of Arabs who took part in the election voted for Livni, meaning her 16,936 votes included a large number of Arabs. This is disproportionate to the Israeli population, which is 75.5 percent Jewish.

To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.