Last updated: 31 January, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister expects easy victory in primary vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Tuesday’s primary vote of his rightwing Likud party over his sole rival, the hardline settler Moshe Feiglin.

“I thank you for the confidence and the renewed support that you have given me,” Netanyahu said in a public address before the official results were announced.

In an earlier statement, Netanyahu had congratulated his party on the conduct of the vote, saying: “Today, the real Likud won. We proved that our strength is our unity. We will continue to lead the country in a responsible way … for the good of all Israelis.”

Sources close to Netanyahu said he may have taken as much as 80 percent of the vote.

Final results were expected in the small hours of Wednesday.

Media put turnout at about 48 percent of the 125,000 party members registered to vote.

Netanyahu’s surprise decision to move the vote forward to December sparked speculation about whether he would also bring forward general elections scheduled for around November 2013.