Yossi Beilin is the winner in the race for head of the new left party, Yahad. According to the results available by press time last night, Beilin had an 8 per cent lead over his opponent, Ran Cohen. Beilin's main voters were in the big cities and Arab towns.
Voting day, like the election campaign itself over the past month, was mainly a sleepy affair, although media interest increased yesterday as the voting progressed. Over 70 per cent of Yahad's 21,000 registered voters turned out.
Beilin already began celebrating his victory last night. At the victory party at the Tzavta Club in Tel Aviv, he promised he would lead the new party "without factions." Ran Cohen, who arrived at his campaign headquarters to thank his supporters, was clearly disappointed in his defeat.
Yossi Sarid, outgoing chair of Meretz, said, "I wish Yossi Beilin heartfelt success, and [hope] that Meretz-Yahad will take off thanks to his efforts."
The profile of Yahad voters is not very different from that of Meretz voters, the party that blended into Yahad along with Yossi Beilin's Shahar movement. One-third of Yahad voters are kibbutz members, and the rest are from the big cities, mainly Tel Aviv, and Arab towns.
Beilin and Cohen made the rounds of the polling stations yesterday, arriving at almost the same time to cast their vote at the offices of the Kibbutz Haartzi movement in Tel Aviv. Beilin, accompanied by his wife Daniella, was his usual relaxed self, rejecting criticism that he has used the Geneva Initiative as a platform for his present election campaign. "Geneva is not my private matter," Beilin said. "Geneva can spur on Yahad, the new party."
When asked what was the first thing he would do if elected, Beilin said he would begin by listening to the opinions of party members. He may have been showing former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni that he was taking the advice she gave him at the party's closing campaign event in Tel Aviv, when she said, "Remember that you will be the first among equals. You will have to work with them as a team."