Ran Cohen wins first round Meretz vote

MK Haim Oron gets 65% of votes, Cohen 85%; 60% needed to remain on list.

beilin 88 (photo credit: )
beilin 88
(photo credit: )
Meretz MK Ran Cohen won the most votes Monday night after some 1,000 members of the Meretz central committee voted to select the top 20 names on the list of the party's candidates for the next Knesset, Army Radio reported. Cohen received 80 percent of the votes, while MK Haim Oron received 65%. The candidates needed more than 60% of the committee's votes to allow them to remain on the party list. The order of the final list will be decided at a second election to be held on January 16. According to a new party regulation, MKs who have served for more than eight years in the Knesset have to get the backing of 60 percent of the convention to run in the general elections. Meanwhile, the Meretz Party was suspected of breaking campaign finance laws by receiving indirect support through its connection with the Geneva Initiative campaign, Israel Radio reported on Monday. The ideological identification of the party with the Geneva Initiative and the party chairman's involvement in the movement raised the suspicion that the Geneva Initiative's public campaign was in fact aiding Meretz's electoral campaign, thus overstepping party funding laws. All of the current Meretz-Yahad MKs will be vying for seats in the next Knesset - Cohen, Aron, Zahava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, and Chaim Oron. Only long-time Meretz MK Yossi Sarid will be out of the running after leaving politics. Party chairman Yossi Beilin has a reserved first slot. In addition, former Meretz MKs Ilan Gilon and Mossy Raz have thrown their hats in, as has General Shaul Arieli, an architect of the Geneva Accords, and Tsvia Greenfield, and ultra-Orthodox female author. Uri Zaki, a former Beilin spokesman and head of Young Meretz, will be competing for the slot reserved for those under 35. An additional three slots are reserved for Arab candidates and eight slots each are reserved for both genders. Zaki explained that the number of candidates chasing the 20 available slots shrank significantly from previous years after the party decided that candidates had to get signatures from scores of Meretz members before being allowed to participate. In response to the concerns over the party's connections to the Geneva Initiative, Chairman of the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee Michael Eitan (Likud) called for the details of Israel Radio's investigation to be submitted to the State Comptroller's Office. Beilin said shortly thereafter that he would turn to the State Comptroller and ask for guidelines on handling the situation. According to Beilin, the Geneva Initiative's public campaign began long before the opening of the election campaign. He added the the Initiative had many supporters who were also members of Meretz. Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin was one of the architects of the Geneva Initiative, and the party's publications mention it regularly. Furthermore, Geneva Initiative director Gadi Baltiansky is a member of Meretz's central committee and is considered a close associate of Beilin. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.