In Jerusalem's mayoral run-off election, the candidate building the broadest alliance will win

The city will hold a second round of voting for the first time on Tuesday, after an earlier round was inconclusive

November 11, 2018 06:18

After a fascinating election season that celebrated the city’s unique characteristics, Jerusalem is heading into a second round of voting on November 13.

Elections here typically highlight social conflicts but, in this election, most candidates chose to reach out to all Jerusalemites by lowering social barriers.

State law requires that municipal elections produce one mayoral candidate who receives at least 40 per cent of the vote. If no candidate passes the threshold, a second round of polling is scheduled between the top two.

Now, for the first time, there will be a second round of voting that offers two choices on the ballots: Moshe Leon and Ofer Berkovitch.

In the first round, endorsed by the Charedi parties Shas and Degel HaTorah, Mr Leon garnered 33 per cent of the vote;whereas Mr Berkovitch, head of the pluralist party Hitorerut, received 29 per cent.

The identity of the next mayor might not yet be known, but Jerusalemites did also elect the members of the 31-seat municipal council last week.

The new chamber consists of 17 members from Charedi factions and 14 members from non-Charedi parties. Mr Berkovitch’s own list secured seven seats, marking the first time since 1989 that the largest single list in the council was not Charedi.

Mr Leon’s list, meanwhile, did not pass the vote threshold to secure representation — meaning that if he wins next week’s mayoral contest, a 32nd seat will have to be added.

It is a mistake to assume, as many Israeli media outlets have claimed, that a low voter turnout from Jerusalem’s non-Charedi voters is what causes the over-representation of the Charedim in the council.

Voter turnout in Jerusalem was higher this time than in the 2013 municipal elections: there was a 40 per cent participation rate that rose to 60 per cent among Jewish voters. More important is that 25,000 non-Charedi ballots were effectively “lost” because voters were divided between for 10 different party lists that did not pass the threshold.

One of those was the first Palestinian list to run for Jerusalem’s city council. At its head was Ramadan Dabash, who had high expectations. Yet voter turnout in the Arab neighborhoods of the city remained extremely low — in keeping with previous elections. There was a slight uptick in Mr Dabash’s own neighborhood of Tzur Baher, but not significant enough to win him a seat.

Ahead of next week, it appears support for the mayoral candidates is divided along the dividing line between Jerusalem’s Charedi and non-Charedi camps. The candidate who attracts cross-sectoral votes and alliances will become the next Mayor of Jerusalem.

Lior Schillat is the Director General of the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, supported by the Jerusalem Foundation.

November 11, 2018 06:18

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