Isaac Herzog
Labor MK Isaac Herzog at his campaign headquarters, Tel Aviv, November 21, 2013. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Israel's Labor Party elected MK Isaac Herzog as its new chairman on Thursday, opting to replace incumbent opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich in a landslide vote.

Yacimovich called Herzog Friday morning to congratulate Herzog on his victory after more than 70 percent of the ballots were counted and Herzog's victory was assured, with more than 60% of the votes supporting him. Herzog thanked Yacimovich and the two said they would work together to achieve the party's goals.

Following the phone call between the two, Herzog said he is looking forward to work with Yacimovich, saying he sees her as an important partner in leading the party back to power. "We are embarking today on the real journey to change the face of the state," he said in a statement.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Yacimovich said she respects the party's decision. "I will cooperate with him and help him to strengthen the Labor as an alternative to Netanyahu's politically and economically right-wing government." The outgoing party leader thanked her supporters.

Herzog held a press conference in Tel Aviv at 10:30 A.M. Friday.

Herzog is an Israeli politician and lawyer. A Labor Party MK since 2003, he served in previous governments as minister of housing and construction, minister of tourism, minister of welfare and social services, minister of the Diaspora, society, and fight against anti-Semitism.

Herzog was born in Tel Aviv in 1960, son of Irish-born Israeli leader and Israel's sixth president Chaim Herzog. He received his law degree at Tel Aviv University. He is married and has three children.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid congratulated the newly-elected party leader. "Best wishes to 'Bougie' Herzog. He is my friend for many years, and I am happy for him," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-on issued a statement congratulating Herzog Friday morning. "I congratulate Knesset Member Isaac Herzog and call the Labor Party to stay with Meretz in the opposition and not join Netanyahu's coalition."

By 7:30 P.M. on Thursday, 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 campaign staff had 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.