Avi Nissenkorn will remain head of the Histadrut labor federation after defeating Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich by a margin of 24.85 percent, the federation’s election committee announced Friday afternoon ending a bitterly disputed vote.
With counting completed, Nissenkorn won 62.42% of the vote, while Yachimovich getting 37.58%. More than 55,000 people voted.
On Thursday evening, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Eitan Orenstein ruled that the vote counting would continue, despite an appeal by Yachimovich alleging “massive irregularities” with the voting process.
Yachimovich’s appeal, which was filed Wednesday, alleged that hundreds of ballot boxes were “knowingly tampered with.”
“We are appealing to the court for an immediate cease and desist order to stop the vote counting process for the Histadrut election, in light of the presence of hundreds of faulty ballot boxes that were knowingly tampered with and massive irregularities that raise the heavy suspicion that the results are not true results,” Yachimovich’s lawyer Eitan Liraz was quoted as saying Wednesday in Hebrew media reports.
“In addition, the required evidence is being gathered at the moment for an appeal for the cancellation of the entire voting process,” he said. “It appears to be one of the greatest cases of electoral corruption in the history of the country.”
Yachimovich’s election headquarters pointed the finger at associates of Nissenkorn as being responsible for the supposed irregularities, alleging that ballots were altered under their supervision.
“Trucks carrying ballot boxes from Haifa and Hadera only arrived at the [vote] counting center late in the morning — after wandering around all night accompanied only by Nissenkorn’s people,” The Marker business daily quoted Yachimovich’s election headquarters as saying.
In response to the allegations, Nissenkorn’s election headquarters said the claims showed that “Yachimovich has lost all touch with reality.”
“No appeal, announcement, crying, slander or spin will undo the fact that Yachimovich was defeated at the ballot box by close to 250,000 workers that did not want her,” it said, according to Hebrew media reports.
Founded in 1920, the Histadrut union quickly grew to be one of the most powerful institutions in the country. Although the influence of organized labor has waned in recent years, the Histadrut’s large membership ensures its ability to call paralyzing strikes, and the head of the organization is viewed as one of the most powerful political brokers in Israel.
Elections for the Histadrut take place every five years, but Nissenkorn’s predecessor Ofer Eini resigned two years into his second term as chairman, allowing his deputy to take the helm.
Burying speculation that she was gearing up to mount a challenge on Labor Party chair Isaac Herzog, Yachimovich announced in February that she would seek to become the head of the federation.
Yachimovich, who headed Labor from 2011 to 2013, said she had been “deliberating the move for many months,” and that despite the need to resign from the Knesset if victorious, she was confident she would be able to play a key role in national decision-making as Histadrut chairwoman.
She attacked Nissenkorn throughout the campaign as a “front” for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s economic policies.
Early in the campaign Nissenkorn gained a key endorsement from Kahlon as well as a number of Labor MKs, among them party leader Isaac Herzog.
Nissenkorn, who fought to prevent Yachimovich from joining the race in the first place, has called her a “fire-starter” and questioned her ability to lead cool-headed negotiations with the government.
Throughout her career in politics, and before that as a media personality, Yachimovich gained a reputation for antagonism to big business. Launching Labor’s election campaign in 2012, she called for Israel to take a more socialist approach to government. “Our goal is to establish an alternative, responsible, social democratic government,” she said.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.