Merav Michaeli won a second term as Labor Party leader on Monday, defeating her sole rival, party secretary-general Eran Hermoni, by a massive margin to lead Labor into Israel's November 1 election.
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This marks a shift in Labor’s recent history of leaders who were either ousted from the party or quit after one term.
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The party reported that 15,070 party members – 43 percent of eligible voters – cast their vote on Monday, a 35 percent increase from the voting rate in the previous election for party leader. Michaeli took 82.5 percent of the vote, with Hermoni taking 16.2 percent and about 1 percent abstaining.
The party said 36,000 members were entitled to participate in the primary, either online or at one of the four polling places in major cities.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid congratulated Michaeli on her win, tweeting "We will continue to work together for the sake of Israel's citizens." Former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon also congratulated her, writing that "female leadership wins."
Michaeli spent most of Monday telephoning voters and activists. Her campaign headquarters hoped for a strong turnout, which officials said would suggest high levels of voter interest ahead of the general election. In any case, party members were able to cast their votes online, which made doing so much simpler and possibly boosted voter turnout.
On Sunday, all of Labor’s lawmakers signed a joint letter of support for Michaeli. “All of us as a faction, have supported Merav Michaeli’s candidacy for a long time and hope that all party members will give her a renewed vote of confidence,” they wrote.
No party lawmaker sought to challenge Michaeli, not even the two cabinet ministers – Nachman Shai and Omer Bar-Lev – who weighed running for the job but ended up backing her candidacy. Elections to determine the party list are slated to take place August 9.
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The broad support Michaeli enjoys in the party not only virtually ensured her a second term, but will enable her to enforce a key part of her election strategy, which is to prevent a merger with the Meretz party at all costs. Party sources said the fact that party lawmakers had backed Michaeli wall-to-wall indicates that they support her position. However, if major changes happen within the party list on August 9, the support she enjoys regarding the merger issue may diminish.
One scenario that worries Labor leaders is that Meretz’s support ahead of the elections will grow after Zehava Galon takes over the chairmanship of Meretz, as is widely expected. Among other things, Labor officials are concerned that in such a case, Michaeli’s status as the only female party leader on the left will be eroded. Until now, that has been a significant electoral asset to the party.