Mitzna vote - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - September 2011
Amram Mitzna casting his vote during the Labor Party primaries. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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MK Isaac Herzog, who came third in the first round of voting for the Labor Party leader, has announced that he will not publicly support either of the remaining candidates, Shelly Yachimovich or Amir Peretz. The other loser in the first round of voting, Amram Mitzna, who finished last, has thrown his support behind Peretz.

Herzog, a former social affairs minister who managed to build a substantial power base in the run-up to the party's leadership race, said that in an effort not to split the party, he would not direct his supporters to vote for either Peretz or Yachimovich. Observers believe, however, that most of his supporters will vote for Yachimovich in the second round on Wednesday. Voting for leader of the party is limited to Labor Party members. Herzog is thought also to have been concerned that his endorsement of one of the two would lead to the disintegration of his political camp.

He garnered impressive support in the first round from kibbutz members and from party members living in the large cities, where Yachimovich also received major support. Herzog also got votes, however, from moshav cooperative farming communities and the Arab community, where Peretz attracted decisive majorities. Herzog's associates acknowledged that even if he had endorsed a candidate in the second round, many of his earlier supporters might not have heeded his advice.

Herzog and Erel Margalit, a fifth candidate who dropped out of the leadership race just before the first round, issued a joint statement on Saturday expressing their belief that their supporters should vote their own consciences, and explained that their stance was motivated by their desire not to split the party. For his part, Peretz thanked Mitzna for his support and welcomed Herzog and Margalit's decision not to take a public position as to who the next leader of Labor should be.

For her part, Yachimovich also expressed support for Herzog and Margalit's stance and voiced disappointment with Mitzna's endorsement of Peretz. The endorsement did not reflect the sentiments of Mitzna's own supporters, she claimed.