Ninety-six percent of Meretz’s 1000-member central committee voted in the party primary in Tel Aviv Monday.
Meretz re-elected its current slate, with the exception of MK Nitzan Horowitz, who decided not to run again. In his place is former MK Mossi Raz.
Party leader Zehava Gal-On is first on the list, followed by MKs Ilan Gilon, Issawi Frej, Michal Rosin, Tamar Zandberg and then Raz.
Frej placed higher than any Arab ever has in Meretz. Rosin and Zandberg reached their spots on the list without being bumped up to spots reserved for females.
Gal-On defended the party’s election system, in which all of the party’s 16,000 members elect a central committee – which then votes on the party list – from criticism that it keeps the party closed, with little chance for newcomers to run.
“It’s complicated and may need to be rethought, but it’s certainly a system that prevents corruption, and you don’t need to be a millionaire to run,” she told Army Radio.
Later, after voting in the primary, Gal-On said: “I have no doubt the list that will be chosen will be varied, will represent many groups, and this way we can go to the public and say, whoever is left wing, come vote Meretz. Don’t make calculations; vote how you feel.
“If Meretz gets 10 seats, there will be a center-left government,” she said.
Meretz averaged 5.6 seats in last week’s polls.
The voting took place in the Tel Aviv Convention Center in a large room that could only be reached by passing through a narrow hallway cramped with booths representing primary candidates and volunteers handing out the contenders’ paraphernalia.
“I feel good. The central committee was only elected three weeks ago, so everyone came,” Zandberg, one of many candidates standing at the entrance to the primary location Monday afternoon, commented on the high turnout.
Frej, the only Arab candidate running, seemed more nervous than Zandberg, having set a lofty goal for himself, which he ended up reaching.
“I want to go from MK to one of the leaders,” he explained, aiming for second place in the primary after the very popular Gilon. “I’m in suspense, but suspense is healthy. I am part of this celebration [the primary] and I hope only good will come out of it.”
Meretz limited candidate expenses on their campaigns to NIS 20,000, which seemed to be spent mostly on banners, t-shirts, stickers, candies and balloons, which sporadically popped, startling voters and activists.
Rosin’s campaign made glow sticks and light-up headbands with her name on them.
Zaki took a well-known Likud slogan – “strong against the Left” – and reversed it on his banners and stickers: “On the frontlines against the Right.”
One candidate, Roberto Della Rocca, a veterinarian, claimed in a sign behind his campaign’s table that he only spent NIS 71 – on construction paper, gas and bus passes.
A woman wearing an Ilan Gilon t-shirt said to the toddler she carried: “Who are we voting for? For grandpa!”
Meanwhile, candidate Tom Dromi had an entire chorus of volunteers singing his praises to the tune of the hit Pe’er Tassi song “Derekh Hashalom.”
Shavit approached passers-by, explaining that he is trying to beat the Meretz system to get on the list. Most candidates try to push representatives on to the central committee to vote for them, but he did not.
“I trust people’s logic; I didn’t make deals,” he said. “Everyone talks about wanting different politics, so that’s what I’m doing. If you want that, then pick me for my quality, without deal-making.”
Zandberg’s spokeswoman, Ophir Bar-Zohar, said the beauty of Meretz’s limited primary is that it doesn’t breed unbridled, bitter competition.
“This is what Meretz is about. I’m wearing a scarf from Issawi [Frej’s] campaign and an Ilan [Gilon] sticker. This is all done in good spirits, with hugs and handshakes,” she said.