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      Despite Near-Riot, Yechimovich Changes Labor Rules

      Labor Party head Shelly Yechimovich faced down a crowd of dissenters and convinced party members to conduct open primaries
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 10/30/2012, 10:49 PM

      MK Shelly Yechimovich
      MK Shelly Yechimovich
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      As part of her efforts to “democratize” the Labor Party, Shelly Yechimovich, head of the party, faced down a crowd of dissenters who loudly booed her, and convinced party members to accept her proposal to conduct open primaries in the party. Formerly, the Labor list had been built around “reserved” seats that were allocated to senior MKs and to interests in the party, such as pensioners, kibbutzim, geographical districts, etc. Yechimovich on Tuesday did away with this process, and candidates for the party's list will now be chosen by party members.

      As the decision was announced, dissenting party activists began arguing wildly, and some threw items at the podium. Security guards attempted to restore order, as party leaders feared a riot would break out. Several activists were ejected from the auditorium. One of the activists who was ejected attempted to present a petition that demanded that the party reserve 40% of seats for women.

      During a speech after the decision, Yechimovich addressed party members, saying that “even if you are angry – and I understand why you would be – I ask for your support and love. I ask you to trust me. Even if it hurts, this new system is better for the party.”

      “I call on Likud members of the moderate right, who respect the state's institutions and who love Israel to support us,” Yechimovich said. “We have much more in common with you than you have with Avigdor Lieberman and his party. Let me say this clearly: I am running to be Prime Minister, and I believe we can replace the current government."