Yachimovich - Emil Salman - 08092011
Shelly Yachimovich. Photo by Emil Salman
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The Labor Party holds elections to choose a new leader to succeed Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday. Barak split from the party and set up Atzmaut in January, leaving four candidates vying for the Labor leadership: Isaac Herzog, Shelly Yachimovich, Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz. All four were on the campaign trail over the weekend seeking to persuade undecided party members of their worth.

Yachimovich, an MK and former television personality, urged supporters of Herzog and Mitzna to throw their support behind her or Peretz, which she said would reduce the chances of a run-off round. For his part, Peretz, who previously headed the party and served as defense minister in the mid-00s, claimed he is the only candidate capable of drawing considerable support from Likud and increasing the influence of the center-left in the next elections.

Herzog, a former social affairs minister, said he was the only candidate who could head off future division of the party. Mitzna, a former military leader and former mayor of Haifa and acting mayor of Yeruham, said his aspiration to head the party would be followed by efforts to become prime minister in the next general election.

If no candidate garners 40 percent of the vote in the race, a second round of voting will be held next week between the two leading finishers in the first vote.

While Yachimovich's campaign cautioned her supporters against complacency in the wake of polls that showed her in the lead, Peretz said she was targeting her criticism at Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, while Peretz claimed he had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his sights. Peretz was also dealing with opposition to his candidacy from the current chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, Ofer Eini, due to a personal conflict between them. Sources said Eini's influence on the race was limited.

Efforts continued recently between the Herzog and Mitzna camps to get one of them to drop out of the race and throw their support behind the other. Neither candidate, however, has agreed to step aside at this point. Mitzna publicly attacked Herzog, making it more unlikely their two camps could come together if one dropped out. "He's not a leader that can take over the party," Mitzna told Channel 2 in reference to Herzog, adding: "The voters know that."