Labor primary votes being tallied as polls close

Some 40,000 of 66,310 eligible voters turn out in Peretz-Yacimovich run-off; turnout particularly high in South where Peretz is strong.

Amir Peretz greets supporters311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Amir Peretz greets supporters311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Labor Party members were expected to learn the identity of their new leader overnight Wednesday, as votes from polling stations across the country were counted  at the party's headquarters at Beit Berl Teachers College in Kfar Saba, where the winner was expected to deliver a victory speech.
Some 40,000 of the 66,310 eligible voters exercised their right to vote, a turnout of some 60 percent, according to estimates about an hour after polls closed. Turnout was particularly high in the South where Peretz is strong, average in kibbutzim, where Yacimovich enjoys an advantage, and low among Arabs, who were expected to vote for Peretz.
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If the results end up being especially close, one of the candidates could challenge the race in internal and external courts, due to various incidents that occurred during the voting. For instance, election observers representing Peretz refused to remain at four polling stations while votes were counted, but Labor's election committee did not disqualify the votes there.
Late Wednesday morning, a Peretz supporter named Dov Shemesh was punched by a Yacimovich supporter outside her headquarters and had to be hospitalized. Yacimovich was present and video of the incident indicates that she must have seen it, but she said she was unaware of what happened, because she was giving interviews. Yacimovich called Shemesh and condemned the incident, but when she said she didn't see it, he called her a liar.
Peretz said Shemesh "had no connection to violence," and was "truly the salt of the earth." He called on all Labor Party members to prevent further violence. "The day after the election," he said, "we'll need to unify against the Likud."
Yacimovich filed complaints with the Labor elections committee against a Peretz organizer who she said set up a table inside a Haifa polling station, and against Peretz's sister and brother-in-law, Flora and Sammy Shoshan, for allegedly threatening voters at a polling station in Mitzpe Ramon, where Flora Shoshan is mayor.
Earlier, Yacimovich complained that polls at several Kibbutzim and large cities were prevented from opening on time Wednesday morning due to the delayed arrival of Peretz's election observers. She noted that Peretz's observers only came late to polling stations in sectors where she had an advantage.
Neutral observers urged Peretz and Yacimovich to do everything possible to keep the party united following the primary. MK Isaac Herzog, who finished a strong third in the first round of voting last Monday said he was concerned that Labor could split again as it did when Defense Minister Ehud Barak and four allies left the party on January 17.
"The party is not the personal property of anyone," said former Labor candidate Erel Margalit, who like Herzog did not endorse anyone in the run-off race. "We all must unite behind our leader. From today, there are no adversaries in this house."

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