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About 61 percent of eligible Labor Party members turned out yesterday to select a new party leader in an election pitting Amir Peretz, a former leader of the party and former chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, against former journalist Shelly Yachimovich. The pair survived a first round of voting that knocked two other candidates, Isaac Herzog and Amram Mitzna, out of the running.

The result was not final at press time and the candidates acknowledged yesterday that the race was close. Yachimovich was expected to draw strong support from the kibbutzim and large cities, where turnout was relatively high. As the day wore on, however, turnout also picked up from Arab communities and the south of the country, where Peretz is thought to have a strong base of support, although turnout from Arab members did decline compared to the first round.

Unlike last week's first round, in which there were almost no complaints about election irregularities, yesterday was more tense, with mutual recriminations between the two campaigns that even degenerated into a physical confrontation at a polling station in Tel Aviv while Yachimovich was casting her vote there.