Members of the left-wing Meretz party’s governing council headed to the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds Tuesday evening to elect a new party leader. Results are expected almost immediately after the single polling station closes at 10 p.m.
MKs Zehava Gal-On and Ilan Gilon are faceing off against Ori Ophir, a 33-year-old party activist who hopes to attract young voters who participated in last summer’s social protests. Ophir admitted that he does not expect to win Tuesday’s contest, but he does hope to force a run-off election. In a nod to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and to tent cities throughout Israel, Ophir and his supporters pitched a tent Monday outside the fairgrounds.
Security is expected to be tight for the vote, partially due to threats made against Gal-On in recent months. On Monday evening, two men dressed in black came to her campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv and behaved in a threatening manner, according to the MK’s spokesperson.
Gilon’s surrogates called the incident strange and suggested that it may have been a political stunt orchestrated by Gal-On’s campaign. On Monday, Gilon also noted that his colleague has refused his requests for a debate.
Gilon describes himself as a representative of the real Meretz party, the “Meretz of Ashdod, of the workers.”
Speaking to supporters early on Tuesday, Gal-On promised to energize the party and to turn last summer’s social protests into political power. Responding to accusations by Gilon that she represents a niche, elitist Meretz party, Gal-On stated, according to Ynet, that under her leadership, “[Meretz] will no longer be a boutique, north Tel Avivian faction.” She promised to make Meretz “a true social-democratic party that supports dividing the land.”
Both the Gal-On and Gilon campaigns said they were cautiously optimistic with respect to Tuesday’s results.
The new leader of Meretz will replace Haim Oron, who remained at the helm of the party despite resigning from the Knesset in March 2011. Meretz holds three seats in the current Knesset.