Yachimovich wins Labour election

Shelly Yachimovich

Shelly Yachimovich

Shelly Yachimovich, a former journalist and broadcaster, will be the next leader of Israel's Labour Party, only six years after entering politics.

Ms Yachimovich won the second round of leadership primaries with around 55 per cent of the votes, beating her former political patron, Amir Peretz. The new leader has no ministerial experience but Labour members opted for a totally new leadership rather than elect the former party leader and defence minister.

Ms Yachimovich now has an uphill struggle as she tries to restore the fortunes of the party that founded the state of Israel and governed it for its first three decades. Labour has fallen on its hardest times in its history, currently holding only eight Knesset seats.

While Mr Peretz dominated the ballots in the Galilee and Negev, and in the Druze and Arab communities, Ms Yachimovich proved to be unassailable in the big cities and the Kibbutz movement. Ms Yachimovich won the first round of primaries last week with 32 per cent of the vote, but failed to cross the 40 per cent threshold. She was forced to run again against Mr Peretz this week, who received 31 per cent in the first ballot.

The past week of campaigning was ugly, with the former allies accusing each other of dirty tricks.

A Yachimovich win is good news for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as she is seen as a middle-class figure who will attract votes away from the main opposition party, Kadima.

Last updated: 2:06pm, September 22 2011