Netanyahu named Likud leader absent a primary challenger

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was declared the leader of Likud after the party cancelled its primary due to the lack of a challenger. 

The Feb. 23 vote was cancelled Wednesday in response to a request by the party’s comptroller citing cost. Likud will save about $1 million by cancelling the vote.

Though Netanyahu was the only candidate registered, the party’s central committee originally had agreed to hold the vote, providing a blank slip for voters.

The party moved up the primary from six months before the next election to the February date.

Netanyahu had said that the move will allow the party to be “ready for every scenario,” including early national elections. Early elections are likely, since the Likud-led government coalition has a majority of one seat. Critics said moving up the primaries would suppress opponents.

It will be Netanyahu’s seventh term as Likud leader.

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