Israel's Labour party goes to polls to elect new leader
Members of Israel's Labour Party, once Israel's dominant political entity but now a small opposition faction, went to the polls Monday, to elect a new party head to replace Ehud Barak, who bolted early this year to form a new independent political block, DPA reported.
Four candidates are contesting the election. Front-bench legislator Shelly Yechimovich, a former journalist; Amir Peretz, a one-time trade union leader who headed the party from 2005 to 2007; Amram Mitzna, another former party head and a former general, who has a successful career in municipal politics, and Isaac Herzog, another front-bench legislator who is the son of former Israeli President Haim Herzog.
Some 66,310 party members are eligible to vote. Polls close at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) and the results are not expected until early Thursday morning. If no candidate wins more than 40 per cent of the vote, a run-off election will be held on September 21.
Pre-voting surveys give the outspoken Yechimovich the edge.
In its many previous incarnations Labour was once Israel's natural party of government, but has in recent elections gradually lost ground, scoring its lowest-ever results in February 2009 under Barak's leadership - 13 of the 120 seats in parliament.
The party, and Barak in particular, came under flack for serving as a fig-leaf in an otherwise right-wing and ultra-right coalition, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barak, stung by the criticism, which also came from fellow legislators, bolted in January, taking four other senior party legislators with him, to form a new faction.
Barak's new faction remained in the coalition; what was left of the Labour parliamentary caucus - a mere eight lawmakers - joined the opposition and elected a temporary leader until the party primaries could be held.