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.
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