Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief internal rival has placed high in the ruling Likud’s primary elections.

Near final results published Wednesday show former Cabinet minister Gideon Saar finishing third after Netanyahu in the internal party vote for Likud’s list for the April 9 elections. Netanyahu views Saar as a potential replacement and had lobbied party members hard to push him down the list.

The Likud party has a strong lead in polls and is expected to win around 30 out of parliament’s 120 seats. With Netanyahu facing a series of corruption charges, the primaries have taken on added significance as an indicator for his potential successor within the party.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein came in first and second after Netanyahu.