Police probe Labor Party primary

Investigation to check claims of election fraud in Arab, Druse Labor precincts.

barak election 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
barak election 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Head of the police's investigations and intelligence division, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, instructed the police's National Fraud Unit to open an investigation into suspicions of election fraud which allegedly occurred during the Labor primary in June. The decision was made following claims that forged ballots were cast in some of the Labor precincts in the Arab and Druse sectors. Labor Party spokesman Lior Rothbart said the party initiated the investigation and that it only applied to four ballot boxes, two of whom were won by Labor chairman Ehud Barak and two by MK Ami Ayalon. "We hope the investigation will be quick and we are ready to cooperate in any way required," Rothbart said. But a source close to the investigation said police were examining the voting in the Arab and Druse sectors on a much wider scale. Labor activist Dani Cohen, who worked as a strategist for Ayalon in the campaign, said he was not surprised by the investigation and that he hoped police would succeed in finding the truth. Sources close to Ayalon said the investigation would "cloud Barak's victory and hopefully force another primary." Barak declined to comment. Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who also ran in the race, called the investigation "very unfortunate but unavoidable." "There was corruption in the race and it's unfortunate that the party's committees didn't do enough to stop it," Paz-Pines said. The decision marked the third straight Labor primary in which police had become involved. It followed an internal Labor investigation which determined that "unkosher and illegal activities" took place, and that there were suspicions of forgeries. According to the investigation, in the polling stations in question, people were caught voting twice, a man voted dressed as a woman and hundreds of votes were recorded where only a few dozen people had voted. In June, Labor MK Ami Ayalon, who lost the race, said he would not appeal the results of the primary, but he wanted the matter investigated properly so the party could become clean. Political rivals of new Labor Chairman Ehud Barak accused him of rushing to hold a victory party on Sunday and become defense minister on Monday in order to create facts on the ground ahead of the police investigation. "It's very sad that in a party that wants to rule again, 50 vote contractors decide who our defense minister will be," a Barak opponent in Labor said. "Barak complained about [former Labor chairman Amir] Peretz's forgeries when it was convenient for him, and now he's being silent, because he benefited from the forgeries."