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Young leaders top Israel’s Labor Party list

Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir, veterans of the 2011 popular social protest movement, won first and second place in the Labor Party primary elections that took place yesterday. Two former party chairpersons, Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz, won the third and fourth slots on the list.

Thirty-four thousand party members voted in 84 nation-wide polling station. The turnout, 56 per cent, was higher than senior party officials had predicted, and close to the 60 per cent turnout of the 2015 primary.

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay celebrated the results, saying last night: “An excellent list of real fighters, real ideologues. Candidates who are familiar with the Knesset and are familiar with the public’s needs. I have no doubt that the public will value our team.”

Eitan Cabel, who called for Gabbay to resign, came in 11th place. In the final list, after the reserved slots are filled, he will drop down to the 15th slot. The latest opinion polls predict that Labor will win between five and eight seats which means anyone above eight on the party list is unlikely to become a member of Knesset.

In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev writes that: “Labor’s list of top notch parliamentarians is mostly identified with social and economic issues, which could allow the party to differentiate itself from Benny Gantz’s security-focused list. On the other hand, Labor’s list lacks national security gravitas, with the exception of Peretz, whose brief sojourn as defence minister during the 2006 Lebanon War garnered mixed reviews.”

According to party rules, the party chairman Avi Gabbay has the right to personally appoint candidates for the second and tenth spots on the prospective list. The remaining top ten candidates are Merav Michaeli in seventh, Omer Bar-Lev in eight and Revital Sweid taking the ninth slot.

The Labor Party said that after the primaries, their focus will be on winning back voters who have moved to support new centrist parties now dominating the political playing field, including Benny Gantz’s popular Israel Resilience party. Rumours persist that Labor is in talks with left wing party Meretz about merging to form a joint list in the elections. Meretz is currently predicted to win four or five seats in the 9 April election.