Israel's Left-wing Meretz Party Rejects Bid to Open Up Its Primary System

The proposal would have permitted those outside the Meretz 1,000 central committee to choose the party's leader

Meretz leader Zehava Galon at a central committee voting stand, July 2, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The Meretz party’s central committee rejected a proposal on Sunday that would have opened up the left-wing party’s primary election procedure, permitting non-members of the central committee to vote on the selection of Meretz's leader.

Meretz does not have a regular primary system and its Knesset slate as well as leadership positions are elected by a 1,000-member central committee that is chosen in an open vote of party members. The proposal to change the party's constitution and open up the primaries was put forward by party chairwoman Zehava Galon, but garnered only 43.5 percent of the central committee’s vote. Galon needed 60 percent to have the proposal adopted. Last March, a similar vote to open up the primaries was held and also failed to pass.

Other proposals that would have changed the way the party votes for its Knesset slate were also rejected. One such suggestion put forward by Knesset member Ilan Gilon would have reserved every fifth slot on the party's Knesset slate for someone who had never served in parliament. Only 664 members of the 1,000-member central committee participated in Sunday's voting.

The defeat of Zehava Galon’s proposal was expected, among other reasons, due to the fact it was competing against three others, which made it difficult to attract the 60 percent support that it needed to change the party’s constitution

Galon said she will now focus her efforts on elections to the 1,000-member central committee, slated for October, with the hope that it will give her greater control over the party than she currently has. Ahead of Sunday's vote, Ilan Gilon, who is vying to replace Galon as head of the party, said he opposed the open primary proposal because he said it benefited only wealthy candidates or “candidates with wealthy friends," and added: "This is a system which under the guise of openness actually corrupts a party.”