Amir Peretz tops Labor Party membership drive

MK beats Yacimovich, Herzog, making him front runner in primary; new members could push Labor past Kadima as 2nd largest party.

311_ amir peretz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
311_ amir peretz
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Labor Secretary-General Hilik Bar said an unofficial and incomplete count indicates that Labor’s membership would jump to not much more than 80,000.
Bar said that number “exceeded his wildest dreams” but indicated that there is a gap of some 25,000 between what the candidates are saying and the truth.
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A smiling Peretz came to Labor’s Kfar Saba headquarters on Tuesday with forms that his spokesman said totaled 23,232. The spokesman emphasized that this number did not include loyalists who joined the party by fax or on the Internet.
The candidate who claimed to have signed up the second-most members was MK Shelly Yacimovich, who boasted 17,000. But her campaign said it signed up most of her loyalists via the Internet, and because only 7,000 members in total joined online, including supporters of all the candidates, Yacimovich’s opponents said she signed up no more than 8,000 people.
MK Isaac Herzog put his drive at 16,500. Winning second place in the drive is key, because with six candidates, no one is expected to win 40 percent of the vote, which would require that the top two finishers compete in a run-off race.
The 9,000 forms claimed by venture capitalist Erel Margalit, 8,000 by former Labor chairman Amram Mitzna, and 5,000 by Union of Local Authorities in Israel chairman Shlomo Bohbut have also been called into question.
Before the drive, Labor had 27,000-30,000 members.
If all the candidates were telling the truth, the drive would have made Labor the second largest party in terms of membership, topping Kadima, which is estimated to have between 102,000 and 107,000 members. The Likud has 137,000.
The final list of members is expected to be ready in two weeks after disqualified forms and those of people who illegally joined two parties are eliminated.
Once the list is ready, polls will be taken to determine the chances each candidate has of winning the race.