Isaac Herzog
Labor MK Isaac Herzog at his campaign headquarters, Tel Aviv, November 21, 2013. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Moti Milrod
Incumbent Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich voting in party primary, Thursday, November 21, 2013. Photo by Moti Milrod

The Labor Party leadership election on Thursday was to be decided by no more than a few thousand votes, predicted the camps of both incumbent MK Shelly Yacimovich and challenger MK Isaac Herzog. Neither side would hazard a guess as to who would win, saying the turnout was too low to gauge. 

By 7:30 P.M., only 43 percent of eligible voters had voted, compared to about 50 percent at the same point in the party’s last leadership primary. At 8 P.M., worried in particular by low turnout at several polling stations where she had expected to do well, Yacimovich issued a statement urging party members to go vote.

Yacimovich’s staff said the light turnout could benefit Herzog, since he has more support from organized groups, which are easier to transport to the polls. But Herzog’s campaign rejected this assessment.

“The hints that we’re happy over the low turnout are ridiculous,” one Herzog staffer said. “Every vote serves us. We’ve made insane efforts to get people to go out and vote.”

Herzog’s campaign, for its part, was worried by low turnout in Arab communities, where he was expected to have a significant edge. “If the voting rate there doesn’t rise, we’ve got a problem,” one activist said.

On the plus side, however, the voting wasn’t marred by any untoward incidents.

One surprise of the day was that both candidates chose to cast their own votes at the same polling station, Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv, just a few minutes apart.

Herzog was the first to arrive, and when he saw that some of Yacimovich’s activists were already there waiting for her, he went over and shook hands politely. “I’m happy to be here, with a great deal of energy,” he said. “This energy will bring us victory tonight.”

Yacimovich, arriving shortly afterward, said she was convinced she had the support of most party members, but warned that this support wouldn’t matter unless people went out and voted.

“Support has to be translated into a ballot at the polling station,” she said. “Only if our pile of ballots is the biggest at the end of the day will we be able to celebrate and say we’ve made history – the same party chair was elected twice in a row. Today will determine the party’s character, essence and resolution, but that will only happen through this ballot.”