Middle East
Israel journalist wins Labour leadership vote
Opposition party elects prominent social advocate amid growing dissent over high costs of living.
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2011 10:20
After her victory, Yacimovich was greeted by supporters with chants of 'the people demand social justice' [AFP]

Israel's opposition Labour party has elected a prominent female journalist, known for her advocacy of social rights, to lead the bloc.

Shelly Yacimovich, 51, was declared the winner of the centrist party's primary after a run-off vote late on Wednesday.

She won 54 per cent of the vote compared to 45 per cent support for her rival Amir Peretz, a former party leader who also once served as the country's defence minister.

Two other candidates lost in the vote's first round last week.

Yacimovich,  a former host of current affairs shows on Israeli Radio and Channel 2 TV, has focused her six-year career mainly  on social and economic affairs.

Her victory appears to be linked to changes on the the country's political map following massive protests last summer over Israel's high cost of living and the erosion of public health, education and social welfare.

The demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands into the streets, indicated that the public is now putting greater emphasis on economic issues, which Yacimovich has made her primary concern in campaigns.

After her victory, Yacimovich was greeted by supporters with chants of "the people demand social justice,'' which became the slogan of the protests.

"It is time to rebuild the state of Israel in the spirit of justice, of responsibility of the state toward its citizens and of striving for equality,'' she said in her victory speech.

"The Labour party built the state of Israel. It is time for her to rebuild the state of Israel again.''

Labor voters appear to be hoping Yacimovich can help their party, which now holds just eight seats out of 120 in Israel's parliament, regain power.

With her election, Yacimovich becomes only the second woman to lead the Labour party after Golda Meir, the former prime minister, left office in 1974.

In the late 1990s, Yzimovich provided a platform for a movement calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon, helping build the public pressure that eventually led to a military withdrawal in 2000.

In 2005, she left journalism and joined the Labour party, entering parliament after a national election the following year. She sponsored bills like one requiring employers to allow checkout clerks to work while seated and another extending maternity leave.

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