The Labor Party's primaries came to an abrupt halt Tuesday, after increasing reports of major failures in the computerized voting system, which was implemented for the first time ever, prompted the party's Election Committee to halt the voting.
Later in the afternoon the party announced the primaries would be held this coming Thursday, with ballots open from noon to 10 pm. Labor Chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, instructed the party's secretary-general, MK Eitan Cabel, to work towards ensuring the primaries are held with the week.
"The elections should be held using manual ballots, so as to end this process quickly, efficiently and in a trustworthy manner," said Barak.
The voting process will be reverted back to the traditional manner of casting ballots.
"The elections will be held in a manual fashion. The committee extends its apologies to the voters," said a formal party statement.
Knesset Member Yoram Marciano, furious, told Ynet that "someone will have to answer for today's occurrences. We can't continue whitewashing failures. I call on those responsible to own up to their actions."
Science, Culture and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele, on his part, was angered by the decision to hold the new primaries on December 10, which falls on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice). Majadele said he intends on filing a motion to have the primaries rescheduled once again.
Former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz told Ynet following the decision to postpone the party's primary elections by eight days that "this democratic move ended with embarrassment. We must thoroughly examine what happened."
Peretz stressed that "the elections cannot take place next Wednesday. We must not hurt the feelings of the communities celebrating Eid al-Adha. This would be a wrong and insensitive move." (Attila Somfalvi)
Tuesday morning saw the party's voting stations open at 10 am, as the party's 60,000 members prepared to vote for its next Knesset roster.
Voters had 159 computerized voting stations across Israel at their disposal, and the voting was supposed to end by 9:30 pm, but the elections committee soon began getting reports of technical malfunctions at various stations.
MK Ophir Pines-Paz was quick to call on Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel to extend the primaries' vote in order to overcome the problem.
The elections' committee initially granted the request, extending the vote until midnight; but the flux of reports indicating that the stations were failing prompted Labor Chairman Ehud Barak to instruct Cabel to take whatever steps necessary to ensure a viable voting process.
Cabel and the committee opted to halt the voting and rescheduled the primaries all together.
A tight race
Labor's primaries race stands to be tight, as 41 candidates, including Knesset members, ministers and newcomers are bidding for a place on the roster.
Contending for the top slots are prominent Labor figures, the likes of Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, and MKs Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Shelly Yacimovich and Pines-Paz.
Labor newcomers, such as journalist Daniel Ben Simon, Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer and businessman Avi Shaked, are also bidding for a "realistic" slot, which would guarantee their place in the Knesset.
Two slots on the roster have already been secured for MK Cabel (7) and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (12). With recent polls predicting Labor stands to win only a few Knesset seats in the upcoming general elections, the roster stands to be shorter than ever.
Givatayim polling station (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Labor sources said that real contest for the roster's top slot – Barak's No. 2 – would most likely be between Yacimovich, Pines-Paz and Herzog; but no one is dismissing National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's chances quite yet, despite the fact that he announced he would be in the running just last Thursday.
Ben-Eliezer was initially guaranteed the sixth slot on the roster, but the decision caused a ruckus among party members, and the party's appeals' board ended up stripping Ben-Eliezer of the slot.
One of the most interesting things to watch for is the women's slot. Labor has secured two top-10 slots on its roster for women (five and nine), as well as the 14th slot. Yacimovich aspired for a top-three slot, and may not need to rely on the guaranteed fifth slot.
Should the results place her fifth, Tamir and MKs Colette Avital and Nadia Hilou would be left to duke it out for the ninth slot.