Benjamin Netanyahu has been elected as the new leader of Israel’s right-wing Likud party. Exit polls show the former Israeli Prime Minister took around 47 percent of the vote.
It means the 56-year-old will be the Likud Party candidate for the post of prime minister, to be chosen via a general election expected to take place in March. Likud is currently running in third place in the polls for the forthcoming election. Commentators say its image has been tarnished by internal disputes provoked by the departure of Ariel Sharon. Sharon’s new party, Kadima, is in the lead. Likud Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom conceded defeat to Netanyahu after polling only 32 percent of the vote. Party officials say that less than half of the 130,000 members of Likud who are entitled to vote did so. Experts claim the low turnout reflects disappointment over Ariel Sharon’s departure and apathy over the choice for his replacement. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left Likud last month following differences of opinion with the far-right element of the party. He is due to leave hospital later after having a minor stroke at the weekend.