58% of Labor members vote; Beit Shemesh polling station closed due to violence; results to be released Friday morning.
By LAHAV HARKOV
Labor members went to the polls on Thursday to elect the party’s list for the 19th Knesset, in a vote that will show how much influence party leader Shelly Yacimovich has, as opposed to the growing opposition within Labor led by MK Amir Peretz.Results of the primary will be released early Friday morning, after 58 percent of Labor’s 60,424 eligible members voted for 8-12 candidates out of 83, who are competing for about 20 spots in the next Knesset, according to Thursday’s The Jerusalem Post/Smith Research poll. Voting took place between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. in 68 locations from Eilat in the South to Kiryat Shmona in the North, and went smoothly, with complaints in only a few polling places.Yacimovich pointed out on Thursday that there will be many new faces in the Labor faction, as the party is expected to more than double its seats in the next Knesset, adding that she does not have a list of recommended candidates.“I voted for 12 people, and if I could, I would have chosen 20. It’s not easy to pick the best people,” she said after voting in Tel Aviv. “Everyone should vote however they think is right. In recent days, I heard of different lists, some very strange, that claimed to be what I want. I have no connection to these things.”Despite Yacimovich’s insistence, several candidates were known to have her backing, including former aide Michal Biran, her chief of staff Ofer Kornfeld, former National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuly, former MK Christian Arab Nadia Hilou and educator Chili Tropper among others.Yacimovich has tried in recent weeks to position Labor as a centrist party, saying on Tuesday night that she hoped the list would not be “too leftwing.”AdvertisementAs such, the Labor leader does not back feminist Haaretz columnist Merav Michaeli, who is thought to have a good chance of reaching a high slot on the list, or Peace Now former secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer.Peretz, leader of the opposition to Yacimovich within the party, supports Michaeli, as well as MKs Eitan Cabel, Ghaleb Majadle and Michaeli.Peretz referred to the vote on the Palestinian Authority’s status in the UN in a thinly veiled criticism of the Labor leader.“Today, more than ever, the Labor Party must wave the flag of peace and treat it as an electoral asset and not an electoral burden,” he said.Peretz voted in Givatayim, which has an older, Ashkenazi population, instead of his hometown of Sderot, saying that changing voting locations is a momentous occasion, symbolizing that “the battle is not between ethnic groups; the battle is between classes.”The former defense minister, who is enjoying a spike in popularity as the official who promoted the Iron Dome missile defense project, is competing with the Yacimovich-backed MK Isaac Herzog for the second spot on the Labor list.Also Thursday, the Beit Shemesh polling place was closed as per a request from the police, after an activist attacked the ballot committee’s chairman.The Kiryat Gat polling station was shut down temporarily, after an investigator hired by Labor caught an activist leaving the premises with empty voting forms, which he intended to fill out and give to party members, so they would vote according to his preferences.In addition, party members in Kibbutz Yotvata in the Negev complained that the party’s “mobile polling station,” which allowed Labor voters in remote locations to participate in the primary, arrived three hours late.Lawyers and investigators hired by the party were stationed in each polling place in order to prevent irregularities in the voting.In addition, following computer troubles in Sunday and Monday’s Likud primary, Labor moved to a semi-computerized format. Party members filled out paper forms, which were then scanned and counted digitally.
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