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Labor Votes for Elections Now As Rabin Wins First Round Vs. Peres

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The Labor Party Executive decided Thursday to hold elections as soon as possible for party chairman, giving an important victory to former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is challenging incumbent Chairman Shimon Peres for party leadership.

The vote in the 115-member body was 59-41. The Executive’s decision was not the last word, as it must be ratified by the Central Committee, which is scheduled to convene on July 22.

Rabin has been pressing for an early contest, but Peres argued that he should be allowed to fill out his term corresponding to the tenure of the present Knesset, which expires in 1992.

The Executive approved by a smaller margin Rabin’s proposal to hold “primaries” rather than have the next chairman elected by a more exclusive forum, such as the Central Committee or a party convention.

Primaries would allow rank-and-file party members to vote.

Thursday’s vote gave a strong boost to Rabin and his supporters, confirming that he had the backing of senior echelons of the party.

Peres, who hopes to do better in the 1,000-plus-member Central Committee, had to weather some tough criticism in the Executive, which is frequently called Labor’s leadership bureau.

The party’s former secretary-general, Uzi Baram, accused him of “a cynical attempt to use deserters from other parties” to try to establish a Labor-led government after its unity coalition with Likud collapsed last March.

Baram was referring to the deals made by Peres with certain Likud defectors, who later reneged and returned to the fold.

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