Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (L) and MK Ilan Gilon (R) during a faction meeting on June 18th, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Members of the left-wing Meretz Party headed to the polls in large numbers on Thursday as they voted in the party’s first-ever primary to decide its list for the April 9 Knesset elections.
As of 8:30 p.m., with only 1.5 hours remaining to vote, turnout stood at an impressive 76% of Meretz's 21,000 eligible voting members. The ballot was conducted by electronic voting.
Twenty-three hopefuls are running in the primary with recent polls projecting that the party will win between four and seven seats in the April election.
Among those aiming to secure top spots in the party list, after leader Tamar Zandberg, are incumbent Knesset members Ilan Gilon, Mossi Raz, Michal Rozin and Israeli-Arab Esawi Frej.
Others hoping to finish the primary race on a high and enter the Knesset for the first time include veteran Peace Now campaigner Yariv Oppenheimer, former party leadership hopeful Avi Buskila, head of the party’s periphery operations Avi Dabush and renowned Druze educator Ali Shalalha.
“The left-wing party of Israel will choose tomorrow the left-wing list for the Knesset,” said Zandberg ahead of the primary.
“We are proud to present a list of excellent candidates from all over the country. Men and women, Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrahim, where the common denominator between all of them is that they are all left-wing activists,” she said.
“I call on all Meretz members to vote and shape the Israeli Left in the next Knesset. These elections are crucial choices for the future of the state, and the Left is more important now than ever. Go out and vote.”
The electronic ballots set up at 131 different locations across the country will close at 10 p.m. and results are expected by 11 p.m.
Frej, a Knesset member since February 2013, told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the vote that while Meretz does not reserve any places on its list for Arab-Israeli candidates, Israel’s Left must be a home for Jewish-Arab cooperation.
“For the Arab sector, Meretz has become the leading Israeli party after the Joint List, and the alternative vote for the Arab sector,” said Frej, adding that Labor Party members failed to back Arab-Israelis to reach realistic election spots in their primary earlier this week.
“In order to realize this strength, we must have Arab representation. I believe that Meretz voters will consider this important issue and express this in their votes,” he added.
“The Arab vote is an important vote, and is the target audience for Meretz alone; it won’t vote for Gantz or other parties. We cannot miss the opportunity to reach these audiences, who require us to have Arab representation at the head of the list.”
Meanwhile, questions remain regarding a potential union between Meretz and Avi Gabbay’s Labor, with the latter currently projected to receive eight seats in the Knesset.
On Tuesday evening, approximately 100 left-wing activists from both parties met in Tel Aviv to discuss the possibility of running on a joint slate. The move was led by Young Labor chairman Tomer Pines and former Meretz MK and journalist Nitzan Horowitz.
According to a Channel 13 poll published on Tuesday evening, however, a Meretz-Labor union would only result in the parties gaining one additional seat.
Parties across the political spectrum hoping to unite must do so by February 21, the deadline to submit party lists.Eytan Halon contributed to this story.
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