3 Comments on the Labor Party Leadership Primaries

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Merav Michaeli just became the first Labor leader to win reelection since the party adopted the ‘primaries’ system in 1992. IDI expert Prof. Ofer Kenig presents three pertinent insights on the state of democracy in the party founded by the leaders who established Israel.

Flash 90

1. In 1992, the Labor Party became the first major party to adopt the ‘primaries’ system – where dues-paying party members are eligible to vote and elect the party chair as well as the list of candidates for the Knesset. It is also the only party that has since adhered to this inclusive system, a fact that reflects its high level of internal democracy.

2. This is the 13th contest for the post of party chair since Labor adopted the primaries system in 1992. With Merav Michaeli’s victory she became the first chair to succeed in re-election. In doing so, she broke the pattern that characterized the Labor Party and because of which it has earned a reputation as a party that “devours its leaders.”

Year Chosen Chairman Other Candidates
1992 Yitzhak Rabin Shimon Peres, Israel Caesar, Ora Namir
1996 Shimon Peres Sole Contestant
1997 Ehud Barak Yosi Beilin, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Efraim Sne
2001 Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer Avraham Burg
2002 Amram Mitzna Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer
2003 Shimon Peres* Efraim Sne, Danny Atar
2005 Amir Peretz Shimon Peres, Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer
2007 Ehud Barak Ami Ayalon, Amir Peretz, Ofir Pines, Danny Yatom
2011 Shelly Yachimovich Amir Peretz, Isaac "Bougie" Herzog, Amram Mitzna
2013 Isaac "Bougie" Herzog Shelly Yachimovich
2017 Avi Gabai Amir Peretz, Isaac "Bougie" Herzog, Erel Margalit, Amir Bar-Lev and 2 others
2019 Amir Peretz Stav Shafir, Itzik Shmuli and 1 other
2021 Merav Michaeli Avi Shaked, Gil Beilin and 4 others
2022 Merav Michaeli  Eran Hermoni

* The 2003 elections were for an interim chairman and the selectorate was the party's central committee.

3. The prolonged decline in the political status of the Labor Party - from one of the two major parties to a medium-small party - is also reflected in the number of citizens who registered as party members and were eligible to vote in the primaries. In the first contest (1992) the number of members stood at over 160,000 and it reached a peak four years later with over 260,000 eligible to vote in the internal elections. Since then, the number of party members has dropped significantly. In the last 15 years the number of members has hovered around 50,000 and this time only about 36,000 members will be eligible to vote.

Number of Members of the Labor Party, 1992-2022