Ousted Labor Party chief Shelly Yachimovich emerged Wednesday as the big winner of primary voting a day earlier, snagging the third slot on the party’s Knesset slate and leading a wave of strong support for female candidates.
Eitan Cabel, who was expected to battle Yachimovich for the third slot, came in sixth place, shunting him to the 10th spot on the list.
Women will occupy three of the top five spots, with rising star Stav Shaffir taking the fourth slot. MK Itzik Shmuli will receive the fifth spot. Both were leading figures in 2011’s social justice protests.
Yachimovich garnered enough of the 29,000 votes cast in Tuesdays balloting to occupy the first unreserved spot on the party list, behind faction chief Isaac Herzog and Hatnua party head Tzipi Livni, who is running with Labor under a joint list. Recent polls show the joint list heading for 23-24 seats in the March 17 elections.
Despite her loss to Herzog in the 2013 primaries, Yachimovich had expressed complete support for the party’s leader in recent months and had backed his decision to merge with Hatnua.
Thirty-six candidates ran in the primaries, but in accordance with the deal reached between party chairman Herzog and Hatnua leader Livni, five seats have been reserved for Hatnua members, making the competition for the remaining seats fierce.
Nearly 29,000 registered Labor Party members, close to 59% of eligible voters, chose the party’s Knesset list Tuesday ahead of the upcoming March 17 elections.
Next in line after Shmuli were Omer Bar-Lev, Hilik Bar with a reserved seventh slot, an as-yet-to-be-determined Hatnua member, thought to be reserved for former defense minister Amir Peretz, and Merav Michaeli, followed by Cabel.
Number 11 in the joint list was reserved for a Herzog appointee, followed by Erel Margalit, Micky Rosenthal, Revital Sweid and Danny Atar.
Number 16 was another Hatnua reserved spot, after which came veteran sportscaster Zouheir Bahloul, Kibbutz Movement Secretary General Eitan Broshi, Michal Biran and Nachman Shai.
Bahloul told the Times of Israel recently that he seeks to “rehabilitate relations between Jews and Arabs and establish true equality for all Israeli citizens.”
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Spots 21-25 had three Hatnua reservations, with Labor’s Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin and Yossi Yona occupying places 22 and 23.
Shmuli praised the new roster, calling it a “spirited, social-minded” slate. He thanked his voters for their trust and promised to replace Likud in leadership of the country. Michaeli called the elected slate “an excellent list, with an amazing representation for women.” She also said the next task was “to replace the government.”
Cabel admitted he was disappointed by his ranking but vowed not to “wallow in a puddle of tears” and called for unity ahead of the elections.
Likud meanwhile called Labor’s lineup “a blatantly left-wing list” and asserted itself to be the only choice for leadership in the face of “the threats and challenges we face.”
Polling stations opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday and were closed at 10 p.m., when ballots from across the country were collected for counting.
Analysts had predicted that a number of high slots would go to female politicians, amid a campaign for gender equality within the party’s slate.
Cabel, Margalit, Michaeli and newcomer Atar had reportedly reached a deal among themselves, creating a bloc and offering support to one another.
Economist Manuel Trajtenberg, the joint list’s choice for finance minister should it be elected to form the next coalition, was also guaranteed a seat, from the 11th or 16th slot.
The Labor-Hatnua list is considered the only real contender to win more seats than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, according to recent polls, and hopes to form the next coalition.
The Jewish Home party will hold primaries on Wednesday for its Knesset line-up, with only six of the top 20 seats not reserved for members of the Tekuma faction, female candidates or candidates to be decided at the discretion of chairman Naftali Bennett.
The joint Labor-Hatnua list (spots above #25 unlikely to get to Knesset according to polls):
1. Isaac Herzog
2. Tzipi Livni
3. Shelly Yachimovich
4. Stav Shafir
5. Itzik Shmuli
6. Omer Bar-Lev
7. Hilik Bar (reserved slot, party secretary-general)
8. Reserved Hatnua slot (likely Amir Peretz)
9. Merav Michaeli
10. Eitan Cabel
11. Reserved Herzog appointee
12. Erel Margalit
13. Micky Rosenthal
14. Revital Sweid
15. Danny Atar
16. Reserved Hatnua slot
17. Zouheir Bahloul
18. Eitan Broshi
19. Michal Biran
20. Nachman Shai
21. Reserved Hatnua slot
22. Ayelet Nachmias-Verbin
23. Yossi Yona
24. Reserved Hatnua slot
25. Reserved Hatnua slot
Marissa Newman and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.