Lawyer Shaul Mofaz has defeated his rival Tzipi Livni in the election for the leadership of Israel's opposition Kadima Party. His victory was announced on Wednesday morning.
The final results of the leadership ballot showed that Mofaz had won a landslide victory, obtaining 61.7 per cent of the total votes; around 41 per cent of the total membership took part in the ballot.
In a speech following the announcement, Mofaz called for the party to unite under his leadership to face the many challenges ahead. Although he urged Tzipi Livni to stand beside him, the former leader merely offered her congratulations. No decision has yet been made about whether or not she will stay in Kadima.
According to the new leader, his victory symbolises the emergence of "an intellectual and political alternative to Netanyahu's government and its failure to perform". He called on Kadima supporters to unite around him to defeat the government at the next general election.
Mofaz pledged to seek a resumption of the stalled diplomatic efforts in the Middle East and to launch a media campaign "to improve Israel's image internationally". The party's membership hopes that he will be able to reverse the sharp decline in popular support during Livni's time at the helm.
Recent opinion polls predict that Kadima will lose more than half of its seats in the Knesset in the next election, leaving it with just 12 MKs. Although the party won more seats than Netanyahu's Likud Party in the last election, Livni was unable to put together an alliance to form a coalition government. The party's popularity has slipped ever since.
Iranian-born Mofaz, who is the same age as his country, held several senior positions during his military service, including Chief of the General Staff. He has also served as Israel's Minister of Defence.