Official results show former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and ex-security Chief Ami Ayalon headed towards a run-off vote in the race for the leadership of Israel’s Labour Party. Defence Minister Amir Peretz has been ousted as chief, in a primary that threatens the ruling coalition. Throughout the ballot, exit polls were split on who would win the most votes. In the end Barak won 36% with Ayalon closely behind with 31%. With neither garnering the necessary 40% for an outright win, a second ballot will be held next month.
Peretz come in a distant third with around 17% of the vote, his popularity shattered by the war in Lebanon. Both Barak and Ayalon have vowed to pull Labour out of the ruling coalition if the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, does not step down. Their motivation: a critical report of his handling of the war. This would leave Olmert with the support of just 59 MPs – two short of a majority in parliament. In that event, he would have to resign, form a new coalition or call a new general election.