The Labor party on Thursday elected its slate for the upcoming elections, but results were not immediately available. While polling stations closed at 10:00 p.m., the party’s newly elected list will only be presented at around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, when chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich will announce the results at an event in Kfar Saba.
Some 60 percent of the party’s 60,424 members took advantage of their right to determine the face of what is expected to become the Knesset’s second-largest faction. In addition to eight incumbent Labor MKs — Yachimovich, Amir Peretz, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Isaac Herzog, Daniel Ben Simon, Avishay Braverman, Eitan Cabel and Raleb Majadele — a number of political newcomers, some of whom rose to national prominence during last year’s social protest movement, were hoping to win realistic slots.
Thursday’s primaries were dominated by talk about the rivalry between Yachimovich and Peretz. While the former seeks to position Labor as a centrist party that is not obsessed with diplomatic issues, and supported candidates likely to focus on socioeconomic issues, the latter was backing candidates known for their left-wing politics.
Yachimovich’s camp included political newcomers Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, who were among the most recognizable personalities of last year’s social protest movement. Peretz, on the other hand, supported Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer and Haaretz columnist and feminist Merav Michaeli.
“Today, more than ever, the Labor party needs to raise the flag of peace and view it as an electoral asset and not as an electoral burden,” Peretz said, in a thinly veiled criticism of Yachimovich’s focus on social justice topics.
Rather than concentrating on the peace process and Israel’s future borders, Yachimovich wants the upcoming election campaign to center around on socioeconomic issues, analysts say.
Eighty-three candidates competed in Thursday’s vote, but only about a quarter of them will make it to the 19th Knesset: Most recent polls forecast between 18 and 21 seats for Labor, which would make Labor the second-strongest force in the next Knesset, beaten only by the joint list of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu.
As party chair, Yachimovich is the automatic first place on Labor’s list. The fifth, ninth, fourteenth and nineteenth spots are reserved for women; slots reserved for regional representatives and minorities such as Arabs and immigrants start from place 17 downward.
Besides current Kadima MKs Nino Abesadze and Nachman Shai, there were a number of prominent names hoping for a spot among the top 20: investigative journalist Miki Rosenthal; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of Israeli’s Reform movement; Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad Shalit; venture capitalist Erel Margalit; Eytan Schwartz, who won the reality television show “The Ambassador” in 2005 and currently serves as senior adviser for international affairs to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai; and Ra’anana Mayor Nahum Hofri.