Labor race goes down to wire

Turnout reaches 58.66 percent - higher than the 57% of the last Labor primary two years ago.

Shelly Yacimovich  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Shelly Yacimovich
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The race for the top slots on Labor’s Knesset list appeared to be close as polls across the country closed Tuesday night.
Turnout reached 58.9 percent – higher than the 57.7% from the last Labor primary two years ago. There were long lines at polling stations in Tel Aviv and other cities.
There were no reports of vote tampering or problems at polling stations.
The party hired private investigators to patrol polling locations just in case. The voting results are due to be publicized Wednesday.
“It was a celebration of democracy,” Labor leader Isaac Herzog said. “There are no parties with such a positive atmosphere.
It has been beautiful to see the party so vibrant. Our members realize that for the first time in years, we are presenting a serious alternative to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Thirty-six candidates were seeking slots on the Labor list in the primary.
Labor’s 48,904 members were eligible to vote in 400 polling stations in 76 locations around the country.
The top slots after Herzog and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni were expected to go to MKs Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yacimovich.
Both expressed cautious optimism when speaking to reporters at the polls.
“Of course I am worried, and there is tension,” Yacimovich said. “I did everything I could to maintain my political camp in the party and win as high a slot on the list as I can.”
Cabel, who held his recently hospitalized daughter Shira as he voted, said he had hopes to be in Labor’s top five and beyond that, he just hoped Labor would have the best list possible.
Several candidates had representatives give out presents to potential voters at the polls. Yacimovich’s volunteers gave out roses, MK Nachman Shai’s handed out rulers and pens bearing his name, candidate Ayelet Nahmias Verbin’s team distributed mints with her picture.
MK Merav Michaeli barred her volunteers from giving out anything. She told them she was against littering.
At Jerusalem’s polling station at the Agron Guest House, male and female volunteers helping MK Stav Shaffir wore orange wigs and hats to remind voters of Shaffir and her hair color.
With candidates like Shaffir and MK Itzik Shmuli focusing on young voters, Shai decided to devote much of his campaign to attracting support from senior citizens, who are one third Labor’s members and a higher percentage of those who come out to vote in primaries.
“If I succeeded, it is a testament to the power of the pensioners, who see they have an address in Labor that will fight for their rights,” said Shai, who heads the Pensioners lobby in the Knesset.
Russian immigrant candidate Lemuel Melamed spent the day at the polling station shaking hands and introducing himself to voters. Ma’aleh Gilboa Regional Council head Danny Atar acted as if he had already won a top slot.
MK Moshe Mizrahi said modestly that he succeeded last time without being part of any camp in the party and he hoped that he would in this election too.
Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv said Labor voters were more aware of the need for his messages of pluralism.
“They realize it is more important than ever to counter the extremism of Bayit Yehudi and the Likud,” he said.