Gabbay and Peretz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Isaac Herzog’s tenure as Labor Party chairman ended after four years on Tuesday when MK Amir Peretz and former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay both received more votes, earning the right to participate in a runoff race next week.
Peretz won 10,141 votes, 32.7% of the 30,998 ballots cast. Gabbay received 8,395 votes, or 27.08% of the total.
Herzog finished a distant third and was almost edged out by MK Erel Margalit. Herzog received 5,204 votes and Margalit 4,997, or 16.7% and 16.1%, respectively.
MK Omer Bar-Lev received 6.9% or 2,147 ballots cast. Just 56 Labor members voted for Prof. Avner Ben-Zaken and eight for party activist Hod Karubi.
When the results were announced by retired judge Yaakov Shimon, the head of Labor’s election committee, Peretz and Gabbay supporters at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds burst into shouts of joy.
Peretz said he was proud of his achievement and expressed confidence that he would win the runoff. He thanked Peretz for his years heading the party and praised his accomplishments.
Margalit congratulated the top finishers in the race and vowed to work with the victor to bring down the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bar-Lev released a statement saying he would support any candidate who adopts a policy of telling the truth.
Herzog responded by thanking his supporters, congratulating the top finishers, and saying that he would consult with his supporters regarding whom to support in the runoff race.
“I am very disappointed in the results,” Herzog admitted.
The turnout in the race was nearly 60%, with 30,995 members casting ballots of the 52,505 Labor members eligible to vote in the primary. The turnout was significantly higher the 52% who voted in the 2013 race between Herzog and MK Shelly Yacimovich, but Labor had many more members at the time.
The turnout was especially high in the kibbutz sector and low among Arab members of the party, which was seen as hurting Peretz, who conducted a strong membership drive in the Arab sector.
Throughout the day, the candidates sent text messages urging voters to go cast their ballots. Gabbay sent messages all day saying the race was between him and Herzog, while Margalit told voters the contest was between him and Peretz.
The race was computerized, which allowed results to be available relatively quickly. Voters in Jerusalem complained that the computer system was problematic, and the system was shut down briefly in Rosh Ha’ayin and the Arab village of Hura.
The usual allegations of forgeries and vote tampering were absent, however, much to the satisfaction of Labor secretary- general Eran Hermoni, who ran the race.
“We are proud of our party for this democratic election that involves the public in this fateful decision, unlike other parties in Israel,” Hermoni said, in a reference to Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu and other parties that do not have primaries.