Frightened by early elections, Olmert's colleagues work to push him out

Sunday, June 15, 2008 |  by Staff Writer  

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to face something of a rebellion within his ruling Kadima Party over his efforts to delay faction primaries, reported The Jerusalem Post.

Kadima is scheduled to hold a party meeting on Monday where Olmert's legal advisors will explain to faction members why it was going to take months before a primary date is even set.

But some Kadima members, particularly those lower on the Knesset list who will not make it back into the legislature if early national elections are held, said they will protest Olmert's foot-dragging. Those lawmakers want to remind party colleagues that if Kadima does not replace Olmert immediately, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he will instruct his Labor Party to support the dissolution of the Knesset in a vote scheduled for June 25.

The bill Barak is threatening to help pass was introduced by opposition Likud lawmaker Silvan Shalom, and would set early national elections for sometime in November. Opinion polls suggest Likud would win the election by a healthy margin, while Kadima would lose a significant number of seats.

Barak won his own party's primary election last year based largely on his promise to pull Labor out of a coalition headed by Olmert, who has been maligned by a string of corruption scandals and has seen his popularity plummet over what the public perceives as his inability to properly handle threats facing the nation.

Olmert's deputy, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, blasted Barak in a weekend interview with Israel's Channel 2 News, accusing the Labor leader of knowingly bringing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu back to power.

"We must not bring Bibi to power, there is no reason to put Bibi in charge," said Ramon, using Netanyahu's popular nickname.

Ramon said he would prefer have Olmert remain prime minister, but said Kadima is ready to choose a new leader more acceptable to Barak and other coalition partners, and that Labor must have patience if it truly wants the government stability it claims.

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