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Labor expected to announce candidate slate on Tuesday evening, following primary

33 candidates vie for gender-alternating seats behind party leader Merav Michaeli; currently holding 7 seats, Labor polling at 5-6 for November election

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Labor leader Merav Michaeli votes by phone in the Labor leadership primaries, at party headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor leader Merav Michaeli votes by phone in the Labor leadership primaries, at party headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Almost 40,000 registered party members were voting in primaries on Tuesday to fill out the Labor party’s candidate slate behind party leader Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, with final results expected in the evening.

Several of the party’s current Knesset members are expected to hold onto Labor’s top-billed candidate spots, although any change in the order might prove consequential if Labor shrinks from its current seven Knesset seats and three ministerial posts.

Labor is polling between five and six seats for the November 1 general election, and party sources say they want to establish the list of left-wing candidates before firming up campaign messaging and plans. Labor has long established itself as a promoter of social democratic economic policies and an advocate of the creation of a Palestinian state. In the previous four elections since 2019, the party has been staunchly against a coalition led by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Party sources expect current lawmakers to lead the list, namely Gilad Kariv, Emilie Moatti, Ram Shefa, and Efrat Rayten. Ministers Omer Barlev and Nachman Shai and lawmakers Naama Lazimi and Ibtisam Mara’ana are also expected to place well, but perhaps not well enough to make it into the Knesset.

Labor has not conducted significant polling related to primary positions.

Because of the dynamics of Labor’s gender-alternating list, men are running for even spots and women for odd, starting with already-confirmed Michaeli in the first seat. Further complicating the race, candidates are functionally competing for the nine spots remaining behind Michaeli in order to make it in the top 10, as spots 11-14 are dedicated to special party interests. And, with current polling, only about 2-3 spots will be realistically attainable for each candidate, given the gender constraint.

Standouts among the newcomers include Yaya Fink, the national religious founder of public interest Lobby 99, as well as watchdog journalist Tomer Avital and Gil Beilin, son of former Labor minister Yossi Beilin.

Newcomers will have to fight hard to crack into the top 10.

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli seen during a first meeting of the newly elected slate in Tel Aviv on February 2, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Rounding out the 33 candidates registered for Tuesday’s primary are 12 female candidates, two Muslim candidates, and two candidates from Ethiopia.

Each registered member can choose five to seven candidates to build out the list. Voting will be possible remotely through the same digital voting system the party used for its July leadership contest, or in a physical polling station in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa or Beersheba. Ballots can be cast on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

With Labor well past its heyday, when it was one of the country’s leading parties, Michaeli is credited with rebuilding its strength since taking the helm in 2021. After winning seven seats last year, Labor has further increased its membership rolls by 5,000 since snap elections were called at the end of June.

Three other parties will hold primaries this month: Likud on Wednesday, and Religious Zionism and Meretz on August 23.

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