Exit polls conducted by Israeli television stations say former Prime Minister Ehud Barak is headed for victory in the Labor Party's runoff election for a new leader.

The polls have Barak ahead of political newcomer Ami Ayalon with leads ranging from one to four percentage points.

Barak gave a victory speech early Wednesday at the Labor Party's headquarters in Tel Aviv. Final results are expected within a few hours.

Labor is the main partner of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party in Israel's coalition government.

Both Barak and Ayalon have called for the prime minister to resign following harsh criticism of Mr. Olmert's handling of last year's war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

However, political analysts say the Labor party is not likely to leave the government anytime soon.

The winner of the Labor runoff will replace current party chief, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who also was criticized for the Hezbollah war. Peretz finished a distant third in the first round of party voting two weeks ago.

Barak, a former army chief, served as Israel's prime minister from 1999 until he was defeated in 2001.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.