Kes seats in Labor Party election list taken up by new people

A former World Bank economist, a crusading television reporter and a trove of former generals snared some of the top spots on the Labor Party's parliamentary list, according to the party primary results announced Wednesday. Most of the top vote getters in the Labor primary were newcomers to the party brought in by new Labor leader Amir Peretz. Veteran party leaders, while still getting key slots in the vote, were pushed lower down on the slate for the March 28 elections.

Analysts say Labor, which is trailing in the polls, could have great influence in the next government if it joins a coalition headed by the centrist Kadima Party the main favorite in the election.

Labor has lost support since Nobel laureate Shimon Peres abandoned the dovish movement last month for Ariel Sharon's Kadima. Peres left the party after losing the race for leader to Peretz, a former union boss who has shifted the movement's focus away from the conflict here to the eradication of poverty and unemployment.

Peretz was guaranteed the top spot on the list. He will be followed by the winner of the primary, former Cabinet minister Isaac Herzog, and then by longtime party lawmaker Ofir Pines-Paz. Former World Bank economist Avishai Braverman, a Peretz recruit, snared the fourth spot on the list and TV journalist Shelly Yachimovitch got the ninth position.

Five former generals were represented among the top 15 spots, including former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service who has been campaigning for peace in recent years.

"This is the only team that knows what a social and economic agenda is," Peretz said in a speech at party headquarters near Tel Aviv. "Here we have the team that will change the priorities of the state of Israel."

Several past ministers _ including Matan Vilnai and Ephraim Sneh were pushed down the list by the party's new stars. Some of the veteran Labor leaders accused Peretz of using his influence over the 116,000 registered Labor members to push them out. Sneh a former transportation minister who won the 13th spot on the list told Channel 2 TV that he was a "victim of the deals."

Associates of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak were locked out of realistic spots on the list, but analysts speculated that Peretz would try to reserve a ministerial position for Barak if Labor wins the elections.

Recent polls have shown Labor with less than 20 out of 120 seats in the parliament. Officials in Kadima, which is hovering around 40 seats in the polls, have said they favored forming a coalition with Labor.

Kadima has led in polls since Sharon formed it late last year. The party's popularity continued even after Sharon suffered a massive stroke Jan. 4. Sharon remains unconscious in critical, but stable condition in a Jerusalem hospital. Doctors have said it is unlikely that he could serve as prime minister even if he wakes up, reports the AP.

D.M.