Yachimovich in the Lead as Labor Braces for Poll

Challenger Erel Margalit drops out, throws support behind Isaac Herzog.

Party elections for the Labor leadership will take place Monday as scheduled, after candidate Erel Margalit pulled his petition to the Petah Tikva District Court asking to delay the vote and dropped out of the race, throwing his support to Isaac Herzog.

As a result, nine months after Ehud Barak bolted the party, more than 66,000 registered party members will be choosing a new party chairman next week.

Yachimovich - Emil Salman - 08092011
Emil Salman

The candidates appeared yesterday before the Labor executive committee in Beit Berl, in a last-ditch effort to garner support. The event, taking place in the shadow of the social protests, was punctuated by repeated calls from the crowd for "social justice."

MK Shelly Yachimovich caused a storm when she called on voters to support either her or Amir Peretz, saying they were the only two "relevant" candidates.

"Voting for any other candidate, good as he may be, is a waste of a ballot," Yachimovich said.

Two polls of Labor voters released yesterday support Yachimovich's contention. In a poll taken by the Sarid Institute for Channel 2, Yachimovich was ranked first, with 42 percent of the vote, with Peretz following with 25 percent, Herzog with 16 percent and Amram Mitzna with 15 percent.

Another survey conducted by Prof. Yitzhak Katz for Radio 103 yielded almost identical results: Yachimovich was given 42 percent of the vote, Peretz 24 percent, Herzog 17 percent and Mitzna 15 percent.

Margalit, a venture capitalist who had entered the Labor race in April with a call to "revolutionize" the party, had held lengthy talks with both Herzog and Mitzna in an effort to come to an agreement that would result in only one of the three remaining in the race, thus increasing his chances of winning. But Mitzna refused to withdraw under those terms.

All the candidates tried to win the public support of the party's elder statesman, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who has yet say whom he backs.

Peretz, in his address, promised that if elected, he would reopen party branches that had been closed for financial reasons.

He did not relate to a Haaretz report of an evolving political axis between him and Meretz MK Ilan Ghilon that may lead the two parties to run together in the next general election.