An exit poll shows that Israel's Labor Party has elected former Army general Amram Mitzna as its leader to challenge Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party in January elections.
The exit poll Tuesday night gave General Mitzna -- a relative newcomer to politics -- 57 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for the current Labor Party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Legislator Haim Ramon was a distant third with five percent.
Public opinion surveys taken before the election indicated that General Mitzna - who is the current mayor of the northern coastal city of Haifa - was leading in the three-way race.
Mr. Ben-Eliezer, who served as defense minister in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government, pulled out of the governing coalition during a budget dispute - forcing early general elections.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sharon is facing a strong challenge from Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their battle to lead the ruling right-wing Likud Party. A survey in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily showed Mr. Sharon beating his rival 54 to 38 percent in primary elections set for November 28th.
Opinion polls also predict the Likud Party is likely to beat the Labor group in the upcoming general elections. The survey says Israeli public appears to be leaning to the right after more than two years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting and the collapse of the peace process championed by the Labor Party.