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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Labor chairman Amir Peretz tried to delay the May 28 Labor race on Sunday over the fate of more than 1,500 Labor members in Sderot and surrounding communities who would be prevented from voting by the threat of Kassam rocket attacks.
He asked Labor's central elections committee to allow them to vote over a two-day period anywhere in the country using double envelopes the way ambassadors abroad vote in general elections. The other Labor leadership candidates agreed to let Sderot representatives vote in any polling station, but not that the vote should be over two days.
The committee chairman, former judge Amnon Strasnov, decided that the 1,470 Labor members from Sderot and dozens from other communities near the Gaza Strip would be allowed to vote in only three locations on May 28.
Peretz's attorney, former MK Yossi Katz, called Strasnov's decision scandalous, complaining that it harmed the democratic rights of the people of Sderot. Sources close to Peretz, who is from Sderot, accused Strasnov and the committee of not understanding what the people of Sderot were going through.
"I got angry when the judge told me that people from Sderot wouldn't care about politics enough to vote anyway," Katz said. "People should be allowed to vote in Arad or Safed where their relatives have taken them in. These people have already been hit by rockets and now they have suffered another blow when their democratic right to vote has been taken away."
Katz said Peretz would not ask to delay the entire election but merely to postpone the voting for the people of Sderot if there was a serious wave of Kassam attacks. But Peretz's campaign manager, MK Yoram Marciano, said the entire election would be deligitimized if the people of Sderot were prevented from voting. He said he would appeal the decision to an external court.
"The impact of the central elections committee decision is that Labor has turned its back on the people of Sderot and the area," Marciano said. "The decision is a political attempt to block Peretz supporters from voting."
A spokesman for a rival candidate called Peretz "a desperate coward who was cynically using the people of Sderot to remain defense minister for as long as possible." Peretz's spokesman called the accusation "demagoguery."
Over the weekend, former prime minister Ehud Barak's campaign team intensified pressure on Labor MK Danny Yatom to quit the leadership race after a Dahaf Institute poll indicated that Yatom's five percent support could allow Barak to win the necessary 40% of the vote to avoid a run-off against MK Ami Ayalon. But Yatom vowed to remain in the race.
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