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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is riding a wave of popularity not only among the general public and among Labor voters, but also among members of the Labor Party, according to a Dialog poll for Haaretz. The poll, conducted at the beginning of the week revealed that a large majority of Labor Party members want Sharon to head their party list in the next elections. Half of those polled believe that Sharon, and not Peres, should be the next prime minister.

The representative sample of 575 out of the approximately 98,000 members also showed that 76.5 percent support Shimon Peres' position that the Labor Party should remain in the coalition until the 2006 elections. Only 15.8 percent support the stand of Peres' rival for party chairmanship, Histadrut labor federation chairman MK Amir Peretz, that the party should leave the government immediately.

Seventy-three percent of those polled who are members of minorities also support the Labor Party remaining in the coalition, and among kibbutz members, 71 percent support remaining.

Sources in the Peretz campaign said that in the weeks remaining until the primaries for Labor Party chairman, Peretz's public relations will work to convince voters that remaining in the coalition until the elections will mean wiping out the main alternative to Likud rule.