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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Labor Party chairmanship race entered the final stretch this weekend, with leading candidates MK Ami Ayalon, former prime minister Ehud Barak and Defense Minister Amir Peretz taking off the gloves in last-minute bids to garner support.
Recent polls show Ayalon edging out Barak in Monday's ballot among the approximately 104,000 party members, with 35 percent and 31% respectively among those who say they will vote. Peretz, who many say could make a comeback if he succeeds in bringing Arab and Histadrut voters to the polls, is third with 20%, while MKs Ophir Paz-Pines and Danny Yatom are distant fourth and fifths at 9% and 2%, respectively.
If, as expected, no candidate reaches the 40% threshold, the top two candidates - according to most surveys, Ayalon and Barak - will go to a second round on June 11.
Opinion: Just not Barak
Peretz, who has remained relatively subdued during the campaign, criticized his opponents in a meeting with party supporters in Or Yehuda on Friday.
Peretz accused Ayalon of being an opportunist and Barak of being a "wheeler-dealer."
"There are three camps competing," Peretz said. "The 'dealmaker' camp, headed by Ehud Barak; the opportunist camp, who are running just because they never found their place; and the idealist camp - the people who are here [today.]"
Both Barak and Ayalon have garnered most of their support from Labor's traditional constituency, the Ashkenazi middle class.
"Does a kibbutznik who lives in [a luxury building] represent the new ideal?" Peretz asked his audience, referring to Barak, who has come under scrutiny recently for continuing certain business ventures while running for Labor chairman.
Peretz said that if he was reelected chairman, he planned to reopen coalition talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
He has already said that, win or lose, he plans to step down from the Defense Ministry.
Peretz also waved the socioeconomic banner that won him the last Labor primary, saying he wanted to take up social issues such as raising the minimum wage.
Ayalon and Barak continued to campaign quietly over the weekend, meeting with supporters. They refused to comment on Peretz's statements.