Peretz Closing Gap on Peres in Labor Leadership Race

Histadrut labor federation chairman MK Amir Peretz is threatening to take over from Vice Premier Shimon Peres as the top candidate for leadership of the Labor Party, according to a Haaretz poll conducted Tuesday evening among a representative sample of 500 Labor members.

According to the poll, conducted by the Dialog pollster and monitored by Prof. Camil Fuchs, were Labor to hold primaries today, Peres, who made a supreme effort to get the Histadrut chairman back into the party under the assumption that he would support the former's leadership bid, would win 26 percent of the party's vote, while Peretz would win 24 percent.

Ehud Barak would come in a distant third with 14 percent of the vote, while Matan Vilnai would win 13 percent.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer would come in last with 10 percent of the vote, the poll showed.

Responding to the results, Peretz said he was sure that the next poll would show him passing Peres, adding that the two would end up in a two-way decisive face-off for the position.

The breakdown of each candidate's support shows that a second round of voting is inevitable, with neither of the two leading contestants coming close to securing 40 percent of the vote - the minimum required to win in the first round.

The poll does not take into account the organizational infrastructure of the candidates - a factor that could tip the scales on voting day. Peres appears to be lacking an organized support network, whereas Peretz is the candidate with the best and most efficient organization at his disposal - the Histadrut and all its offshoots.

The poll also sought to identify the candidates' characteristics according to voters. It emerged, perhaps not surprisingly, that personal integrity is an irrelevant trait for a politician, even for someone aiming for the office of prime minister.

In response to the question "Who in your opinion is the most honest candidate?" Vilnai topped the list with 31 percent of the respondents. Lagging far behind were Peres (19 percent), Peretz (18 percent), Ben-Eliezer (7 percent) and finally Barak (6 percent).