The Labor Party's leadership candidates and senior officials traded accusations yesterday amid mounting allegations of widespread fraud and irregularities in the party's drive to register new members.
On Tuesday, senior officials called for an examination of the membership rolls following media reports that thousands of members were also registered in rival parties Kadima and Likud. The reports also said that in the Arab community, numerous extended family members had registered under the phone number of a single applicant, in breach of party regulations.
"The number of members who registered in two or three parties is huge - about 5,000," a senior Labor member said. "Battalions of people who aren't interested in the party should determine its future?"
Another senior party figure accused certain leadership candidates of disseminating the allegations of fraud and irregularities. "I have no doubt that candidates who received partial lists of the new members thought they could improve their chances [of winning the leadership primary] by spreading stories of irregularities," he said.
"A great many of the errors in the rolls stem from mistakes in data entry or involve people who were members of other parties and haven't had time to cancel their membership in them," he added. "These hitches will be sorted out shortly."
Rashad Shalabaya, secretary of Labor's chapter in Kalansua, is responsible for one of the so-called irregularities. Shalabaya, a staunch supporter of leadership contender MK Isaac Herzog, enrolled 36 members of his family in the party. His cell phone number appears on all the registration forms.
Shalabaya was angry at the attempt to portray his relatives as fictitious party members. "My cell phone is on all the forms because my sisters don't speak Hebrew and have no telephone," he said. "There is no reason why my phone number shouldn't be on the forms. None of them was forced to join the party and sign a registration form. They all know what they signed up for, gave [the bank] a standing order and their credit card number. We all want Herzog to win.
"Anyone who says there are lists of fictitious members hasn't recruited members in the Arab community," he concluded. "These are all real people."
All the leadership candidates backed the membership drive yesterday, but called for weeding out every form containing irregularities.
"The severe irregularities that were allegedly carried out in parts of the membership drive require a thorough investigation," said MK Shelly Yachimovich. "But we must not disqualify tens of thousands of members who joined the party in good faith and for ideological reasons. Now we must check every form to make sure the membership rolls are clean and democratic."
Candidate Erel Margalit said all the candidates "must show restraint and refrain from unnecessary accusations about the drive."
Labor Secretary General Hilik Bar said the data from the membership forms would be fully uploaded in a few days and a membership list would be issued by July 6.
"The allegation that 25 percent of the forms are 'erroneous' is exaggerated," he said. "We classified every form in which a phone number or email address is missing as erroneous. We're now calling people to complete the missing details and then the forms will be kosher."
Bar denied a report that the credit card and bank account numbers of people who registered for Labor had been leaked. He said a single disc of sensitive information was mistakenly sent to one candidate's headquarters but was returned immediately, unused.
Likud and Kadima are also tensely awaiting the results of Labor's membership drive, as any alteration in the make-up of Labor's membership could affect the choice of its new leader, and hence the next Knesset elections.
"Yachimovich and Amram Mitzna are seen as the best candidates for Likud, because their chances of attracting Kadima voters and weakening it are the highest," a Likud source said.
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