The race for Labor chairmanship was almost too close to call as of 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. With 189 of 314 voting stations (60.2%) tallied, Ami Ayalon had 33.9% of the votes, with Ehud Barak at a close second with 33.3%. It appears that a run-off is imminent.
Amir Peretz, the current chairman, lagged behind with 21.8% of the votes. The other two candidates, Ophir Pines-Paz and Danny Yatom, had slighting less than 10% of votes combined.
Sources in Ami Ayalon's headquarters had said earlier that he was preparing himself for a run-off with Barak.
Initial figures indicated that voter turnout for the primary elections reached 65.5 percent.
Labor officials told Ynet that Barak is enjoying a significant lead in the Druze and Arab sectors, while Ayalon is ahead in Tel Aviv and has already won in Jerusalem, a traditional Barak stronghold.
According to official results, Barak came in first Holon, Akko, Dimona, Ramle, Kiryat Shmona, Gvat, Na'an, HaGoshrim, Yagur, Mahana'im, Mishmar HaSharon, Evron, Kfar Rupin, Baeri, Degania Alef, Degania Bet, Hazerim, Maagan Michael, Ma'ale Hachamisha, Maagan, Mishmar HaNegev, Givat Haim Meuhad and Mishmar HaEmek.
Ayalon came in first in Jerusalem and Hod Hasharon. Amir Peretz won Safed, Sachnin and Lod.
Should no candidate break the 40 percent bar, a second round will be held between the two leading contenders on June 12th.
Knesset Member Yoram Marciano, the head of Peretz’s campaign headquarters, said in response to the polls, “We will wait for the actual results. In the past we lost in the polls and eventually won. In any case, we will not get less than 10 percent of the votes like some people had hoped.
“The Peretz camp will remain a significant force in Labor’s social agenda,” he said.
Pines, who only received between six to seven percent of the votes according to polls said: "I have known many successes and many disappointments in my political life, but as far as I'm concerned, today's result is not disillusionment. I was prepared for such results."
He added that he would support the party and the chairman, no matter who it was.
Although he received as little as two percent in the polls, Yatom is trying to remain optimistic: "I accept reality as it comes. I am a realist, but we must remember that so far, this is only the reality of polls."
"I have been at more complex situations in the past. I plan to continue my journey; a journey of clean, fair politics," he added.
Campaign staffers for Ayalon reportedly called in a police unit to the Israeli-Arab town of Taibe to investigate possible irregularities.
The staffers claimed that the ballot was hijacked by supporters of another candidate who made tallying the votes impossible.
The results of the Labor elections have a direct impact on the sitting government since all the candidates aside from Peretz have threatened to withdraw from Prime Minister coalition.
A change in leadership would force Olmert to seek replacements amongst the Knesset factions for the depleted coalition, which – at 59 MK's – constitutes less than half of the Knesset.