Elections for Labor Party Chief Culminate Amid Sabotage Claims

Over 65% of potential voters reportedly participate in the elections, choosing between Isaac Herzog, Amram Mitzna, Amir Peretz and Shelly Yachimovich.

Thousands of Labor Party members went out to vote for the party's next leader on Monday, following a day filled with accusations of voting sabotage.

According to statistics released by party officials, over 65% of potential voters participated in the elections, choosing between the four nominees: Isaac Herzog, Amram Mitzna, Amir Peretz and Shelly Yachimovich.

Labor Party elections - Yaron Kaminsky - 12.9.2011

The final results are expected to be announced at 1 A.M. Tuesday at the party's headquarters at Beit Berl. If no candidate gets at least 40 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will face each other in a run-off election next Wednesday.

The results of this election are also expected to have ramifications for the overall political arena. If Yachimovich emerges victorious, for example, Labor will likely siphon off mandates from Kadima in the next elections.

A Yachimovich victory is also likely to maneuver Kadima into pursuing voters on the center-right, and could make it difficult for Tzipi Livni to retain the Kadima leadership.

A Peretz victory, on the other hand, is seen as having the potential to reduce the Likud's electoral strength because of his power bases in the outlying areas. A Peretz victory would also advance the possibility that Labor and Meretz could run jointly in the next elections.

The day's elections, however, did not go over smoothly, with several candidates complaining of sabotage and voter confusion.

Peretz's campaign headquarters, for one, reported that 150 of his campaign's officials were falsely invited to attend a meeting at Peretz's Tel Aviv headquarters. According to Peretz aides, the intent was to lure activists away from the polling stations just as voting was expected to peak at 6 P.M.

Herzog, also citing sabotage attempts, submitted official complaints over what he considered efforts to sway his supporters from voting by sending them text messages that informed them that they were in fact not party members and thus were prevented from voting.

The relatively high voter turnout should play into Yachimovich's hands, with the Labor Party chief candidate saying she believed it was enough for her to bring out roughly 70% of her supporters in order to win the elections.