Majority of Labor Members Want Likud's Sharon as PM

Seventy-six percent of Labor members say party should stay in cabinet until next elections.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is riding a wave of popularity not only among the general public and among Labor voters, but also among members of the Labor Party, according to a Dialog poll for Haaretz published on Friday.

The poll, conducted at the beginning of the week revealed that a large majority of Labor Party members want Sharon to head their party list in the next elections. Sharon enjoys in the poll the suppport of 39 percent who would like him to be the next prime minister, while Labor chairman Shimon Peres inches ahead with a meagre 43 percent of poll participants who think he should be the next prime minister.

The representative sample of 575 out of the approximately 98,000 members also showed that 76.5 percent support Peres' position that the Labor Party should remain in the coalition until the 2006 elections. Only 15.8 percent support the view of the chairman's rival for heading the party, Histadrut labor federation chairman MK Amir Peretz, that the party should leave the government immediately.

Seventy-three percent of those polled who are members of minorities also support the Labor Party remaining in the coalition, and among kibbutz members, 71 percent support staying in government.

Sources in the Peretz campaign said that in the weeks left until the primaries for Labor Party chairman, Peretz's public relations will work to convince voters that remaining in the coalition until the parliamentary elections would mean wiping out the main alternative to Likud rule.