Less than a day after the first round of voting in the Labor Party’s election for a new leader, it seems that there is still life in the once-powerful party, which had been written off after years of in-fighting and an ever diminishing parliamentary presence.
This renewed popularity could well translate to Knesset seats and have a dramatic impact on Israel’s perennially shifting political map. The winner of the Labor leadership race will only be confirmed next week, but seeds of optimism are taking root throughout a party believed to have been one step away from utter irrelevance.
Based on the results of a Haaretz poll conducted Tuesday night in conjunction with Dialog, if nationwide elections were held today, a Labor party led by journalist-turned-politician Shelly Yachimovich would win 22 out of the Knesset's 120 parliamentary seats. Were Labor headed by Yachimovich’s key rival Amir Peretz, the former party leader who resigned after the Second Lebanon War, it would win 18 seats in a general election held today.
This is a significant jump from the 13 seats Labor secured in the last elections, of which it only now has eight, after Ehud Barak jumped ship in January to form the Independence party, taking his cabal of four MKs with him. Apparently, this is the first instance of a leader rehabilitating a political party by leaving it.
Yachimovich and Peretz are winning votes at the expense of Kadima, the party set up by Ariel Sharon in 2005 when he decided Likud was no longer for him, which had positioned itself in the gap left in recent years by the imploding Labor Party. With Yachimovich at the helm, Kadima would lose six of its 28 seats to Labor; with Peretz in charge, Labor would take four of Kadima’s seats.
Just as many predicted on the eve of the Labor vote, Kadima seems to be the biggest loser in Labor’s return to the spotlight.
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