Israel’s Labor party may need run-off to elect leader

By Xinhua

Jerusalem : Exit polls released by two Israeli TV channels showed neither of the two leading candidates of the Israeli Labor Party's future leader, Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon, received the 40 percent threshold to win in a single round of balloting.

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The exit poll released Monday evening by Israel's Channel One TV showed that Barak, the former prime minister, gained the support of 38 percent of the voters, while the former head of the internal security agency Ayalon received 36 percent.

But another exit poll released by Israel's Channel Two TV said that Ayalon has taken the lead in the campaign, with 39 percent of the voters chose him, and 33 percent of them vote for Barak.

According to Israeli media, by 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) Monday, over half of the Labor Party's 103,498 members had cast their votes to elect Labor's sixth leader in eight years.

Final results are expected Tuesday. Only then will it be clear whether a candidate received the 40 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a run-off race between the top two finishers in June.

Ayalon has pledged to lead the party out of the current coalition government led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, if Olmert's Kadima Party doesn't choose a new leader.

Barak has said he would serve in an Olmert government, while working within parliament to topple the Israeli leader and call early elections.

With 19 seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament), Labor is the most important coalition partner of Kadima.