Nitzan Horowitz was voted Thursday chairman of Israeli left-wing party Meretz, overcoming current chairwoman Tamar Zandberg.
1,043 members of the party's committee elected Horowitz, with 81 percent of the committee members participating in the vote.
The results are likely to impact a potential merger between Meretz and the Labor Party or the new, yet-to-be-named party former Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced he was launching on Wednesday.
Sources in the party assessed that Zandberg, who emphasized Jewish-Arab partnership in her campaign, would have struggled to lead a move to join forces with Barak, who is not favored by the Arab sector. Horowitz has not publicly ruled out the option of merging with Barak's slate.
Horowitz, an Israeli journalist, Haaretz columnist and politician who served as a two-term Knesset member for Meretz in the past, pledged to help the party as well as the entire Israeli left wing recover from blows it suffered in the recent election.
He has said that he would make the struggle against religious coercion and the fight for social justice the focal points of the party's agenda. "Meretz will join forces with whoever is close to us in their values and opinions," he said on Thursday. "We have a large base and many people who support us. Meretz is an anchor, and it's important for as many people as possible to rally around us."
Speaking after the results were announced, Horowitz, the first openly gay man to lead an Israeli party, highlighted the fact that he is "the first member of the LGBTQ community to be the chief of a political party in Israel."
"It's not surprising that this is happening in Meretz. I'm certain that in several years this will become a thing of course. Meretz doesn't treat members of the LGBTQ community as fig leaves. We will fight for our freedom to live a free life and have equal rights in this country," he added.
Horowitz also called on Arab Israeli citizens to support Meret ahead of the September 17 ballot.
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