Candidates resist pressure to quit

Polls show that Ben-Eliezer and Vilna'i have no chance to win Labor race.

vilnai 298 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
vilnai 298 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor leadership candidates Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilna'i resisted pressure to quit the race on Thursday following the publication of polls that indicated that they had no chance of winning. A Teleseker poll published in Ma'ariv found that 40 percent of Labor's 100,474 eligible voters intend to vote for incumbent Shimon Peres, 25.5% for Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz, 14.5% for Vilna'i and 8.8% for Ben-Eliezer. Yediot Aharonot published a Dahaf Institute poll that predicted that neither Vilna'i nor Ben-Eliezer would break the 15% mark. The Dahaf poll found that there would be a major difference in the results of the race depending on whether 70% of the members vote or only 60%. If 70% come, Peres will beat Peretz by 11% and obtain the 40% of the vote necessary to avoid a two-man run-off, but if the turnout were 60%, the divide would be only three percent and a second round of voting would be necessary. The Peres campaign urged Vilna'i and Ben-Eliezer to quit the race so Peres could win without necessitating a run-off against Peretz. Former prime minister Ehud Barak visited Ben-Eliezer on Thursday to urge him to quit the race and endorse Peres. "We are not worried about losing but we don't want to waste time on a second round of voting when we need to start preparing for the national elections," Peres's spokeswoman said. "The voters need to know that if they vote for Ben-Eliezer or Vilna'i, their votes would be wasted." But a source close to Ben-Eliezer said that the best thing that he could to help Peres would be to stay in the race because his voters would most likely vote for Peretz if he quit the race. Ben-Eliezer's associates said the best thing for Peres would be if Vilna'i quits the race because he is supported mostly by elderly kibbutzniks who would vote for Peres. "There is no reason for me to quit the race," Vilna'i said. Labor's internal court was expected to decide after press time to prevent the Labor central committee from convening ahead of the election. Labor gadfly Danny Cohen asked the court to convene the committee to vote on canceling the primary, but the court was expected to rule that Cohen did not present enough signatures to force a committee meeting.