Labor Frontrunners Meet With Also-rans to Woo Votes

MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz expected to use next few days to build alliances with MK Isaac Herzog and Amram Mitzna and improve logistics to attract voters.

MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz, who emerged as the front-runners in Monday's primary for Labor Party leader, met with the two also-ran candidates yesterday to get their support ahead of the second round, scheduled next Wednesday.

Yachimovich and Peretz can be expected to use the next few days to build alliances with MK Isaac Herzog and Amram Mitzna and improve logistics to bring out the voters.

Amir Peretz  - Hagai Frid - September 14 2011
Hagai Frid

Yachimovich went to Mitzna's Haifa home yesterday to persuade him to support her in the second round.

Some of Mitzna's campaign activists did not wait for his decision and said yesterday they had already decided to join either the Peretz or Yachimovich camp.

"Mitzna is a leader and an important asset to Labor," Yachimovich told reporters after the meeting. "I have nothing but respect for him - both personally and in view of his contribution to the state's security and society and his municipal work. There's no doubt he has a dominant place in the party leadership... More than 5,000 idealistic, good Labor members voted for Mitzna. They are looking for clean politics and a strong, renewed party," she said, calling on Mitzna's supporters to vote for her.

Both Yachimovich and Peretz, however, focused their main efforts on enlisting Herzog to their respective sides. Herzog, who finished third in the first primary round, proved he was supported by a significant faction. Many of his supporters are based on poll contractors or groups that vote en bloc as they are instructed.

Herzog's relative success also indicates he has an effective organization, and both leading candidates would like to use it to bring voters to the polls in the second round.

The two candidates already started wooing Herzog on Tuesday by praising him. Yachimovich was expected to offer him the No. 2 spot on her list and partnership in leading the party.

Herzog, however, said he would not decide whom to support before consulting with his main activists.

Herzog must decide whether to join his bitter rival, Yachimovich (who is predicted by opinion surveys to win the most Knesset seats of any Labor candidate ), or to give his preference to Peretz.

Herzog was said to be deeply offended by Yachmovich's attitude toward him during the campaign. Before the primary she spoke of Herzog's power with contempt and called on his supporters not to vote for him, to allow her to win in the first round.

After she won, and called on Herzog to join her in her victory speech, Yachimovich urged his supporters to decide for themselves who would get their votes in the second round.

Even if the two join forces, the partnership is not expected to last, and may lead Peretz or his supporters to split from the party, observers say.

Herzog has better relations with Peretz and could be a real partner to the leadership if he joins Peretz. Another factor is that Peretz could make sure his supporters vote for Herzog as his No. 2 in the party, which Yachimovich would find it difficult to do.