Exit polls say Tzipi Livni wins big in Kadima primary

Exit polls show Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni winning the Kadima Party primary by a double-digit margin.

Livni received between 47 and 49 percent of the vote, while her closest challenger, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, won 37 percent, according to exit polls conducted by three Israeli TV stations.

By winning more than 40 percent of Wednesday’s vote, Livni will avoid a runoff and immediately can begin trying to assemble a governing coalition. Once that process is complete, Livni will formally replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister.

If Livni fails to assemble a coalition, Israel will hold new general elections for Knesset and prime minister.

The voting was not without controversy. Livni asked that the polls stay open an extra hour due to “congestion” at polling stations, but Mofaz opposed the request. In the end, Kadima officials extended the voting by 30 minutes.

More than 74,000 registered party members were eligible to vote at 114 polling stations throughout the country.