The Labor party's official election results, released Tuesday, failed to award a 40 percent majority to any candidate, forcing top contenders MK Shelly Yachimovich and MK Amir Peretz to go head-to-head in a runoff election next week.
The official results publicized on Tuesday awarded 32.2% of the votes to Yachimovich, 30.9% to Peretz, 24.6 for Herzog and 11.9% for Mitzna. No candidate managed to garner 40% of the votes and win the leadership. By 2 am the vote tally made it clear that Yachimovich and Peretz would have to go to a second round.
Mitzna, considered at the outset to be full of promise, ended up with the lowest number of votes, less than 6,000. Mitzna's loss became clear in the early stages of voter turnout, and Mitzna conceded. "I respect the election results, and as promised, will stand by candidate chosen." It remains to be seen whether Mitzna will run for the Knesset on the Labor list.
"I thank members of the party for giving me the majority of the vote," Yachimovich said Tuesday. "It is a great show of faith in path and ideals this party stands for. A clear statement has been made. [The people] want a social-democratic party, an ethical party, that isn't swayed [by other parties]. We are the alternative and not Kadima, which is neo-liberal," Yachimovich said on Tuesday.
Addressing Herzog and Mitzna, Yachimovich added, "We've been through a long campaign and while there were moments when voices were raised, what remains of this exhilarating campaign is the need to return the Labor party to the center of the action. Starting tomorrow I will turn to Buji and Mitzna so that together we can outline a new path. There are no differences of ideological nuance between us. I am sure that you will choose what's good for the Labor party and what will bring the most [Knesset] seats."
Peretz gathered his troops as well. "I thank the activists who showed up today in a spirit of unity. And I want to give due praise to Amram Mitzna, who followed his beliefs through to the end. I want to praise Herzog for his achievement. He was subject to harsh media spin orchestrated by Yachimovich and proved that he has significant clout within the party. I see partners for social justice and peace in Herzog and Mitzna, as well as for the fight against Netanyahu."
Herzog, who didn't make it to the second round, nevertheless showed greater strength within the party than was previously assumed. "I promised to be the dark horse in the election. Today it was proven that the Herzog camp is a significant one in the Labor party, comprising many people, and stronger than what the polls indicate. Labor party members indicated today that they want to see their party battle on both the social and foreign-policy fronts, two values that go hand in hand and cannot be separated. In the coming days I plan to consult with Erel Margalit and the rest of my colleagues and decide with them whether to move forward in the party. I have no doubt that the people who have stood beside me so far, and to whom I owe a debt gratitude, will continue to stand by my side in the future."
Both Peretz and Yachimovich spoke on Tuesday with the defeated Herzog and Mitzna, who will decide in the coming days which remaining candidate they will throw their weight behind. "We see Herzog and Mitzna as natural partners. They both proved that you can't make it in this campaign without a clear set of ideals," Peretz said. "I believe Buji should be part of our leadership. We don't treat partners as subordinates. Yachimovich constantly says that 'Buji was a minister and thus an ally of Netanyahu,' It's not a fair accusation, as he believed at the time that Netanyahu would change his ways."
Yachimovich's camp rejected the criticism. "Things said during a campaign aren't relevant. Herzog attacked Yachimovich and that is how the game is played. We need to move on in pursuit of a common goal and think about what's best for the party."