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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu triumphs in Likud leadership vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a landslide victory in his Likud Party’s leadership primaries, fuelling speculation that he may call for early national elections.

Benjamin netanyahu 2012 02 01 0Enlarge
Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, speaks to the press after casting his ballot at a polling station for the party's primary vote last night in Jerusalem. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a landslide victory in his Likud Party’s leadership primaries early Wednesday, easily brushing aside a challenge from the ultra-nationalist Moshe Feiglin and fuelling speculation that he may soon call for national elections.

With 85 percent of the votes tallied on Wednesday morning, Netanyahu had received 75 percent of the vote, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

While general elections in Israel are slated to take place in late 2013, political analysts have predicted that Netanyahu may call for an early contest to take advantage of high popularity ratings and try to win a second term before the US presidential elections in November, according to CNN.

More from GlobalPost: Benjamin Netanyahu calls early elections, sparks outrage

“I thank you all for the confidence and renewed support you have given me,” Netanyahu said in a speech to supporters in Tel Aviv last night.

Final results are expected later today. Feiglin, Netanyahu’s only challenger, who took 24 percent of votes counted, expressed satisfaction with his own results, telling the Ynet website:

“We did something that was almost impossible… more than one quarter of registered Likud members voted for me and for a Jewish state.”

About half of Likud’s 125,000 members voted in the primaries, according to the BBC. Yesterday, in an apparent sop to the party’s hardline settler contingent, Netanyahu offered a number of financial and other incentives to settlers living in the West Bank, GlobalPost reported.

More from GlobalPost: Israel offers settlers incentives
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120201/israeli-pm-benjamin-netanyahu-triumphs