As much voter indifference as there may be, municipal elections are probably even less interesting to outsiders. So to a non-Israeli, in this case, whether a Labour candidate or a Likud candidate happened to be elected in a particular city to oversee garbage collection and local education just does not seem too riveting. After all, someone's arnona (Israeli property tax) might increase dramatically but as long as it does not affect your property taxes, do you really care?
Nevertheless, since there were municipal elections all across Israel, there had to be some interesting stories. I thought you would enjoy a few interesting tidbits that emerged from Tuesday's election, some of which are rather amusing, in my view anyways.
This was probably the most interesting mayoral race. Moshe Leon was the candidate favoured by the religious parties, backed by Avigdor Lieberman (leader of Yisrael Beitenu) (who is currently awaiting the verdict in a corruption trial) and by Aryeh Deri (a political leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, who was actually convicted of corruption and served his time). Leon, who is not even a Jerusalem resident, was parachuted into the race to run against secular candidate and incumbent mayor Nir Barkat. Well, don't we have to say "Thank G-d!" that Barkat won? For many Jerusalem residents, it must have been a reverse endorsement for Moshe Leon to be backed by such esteemed public officials as Lieberman and Deri. The race was not a landslide but Barkat managed to win, much to the chagrin of many of the ultra-orthodox.
I couldn't help but notice that the incumbent mayor Ruvik Danilovich won 92% of the vote. Wow! Either the candidate was immensely popular - or there was some funny water in the well somewhere....This is an incredible margin of victory in a contemporary democracy. Okay, I guess it helped that he presented voters with a popular 10 year plan to turn Beersheva into a major Israeli metropolis...It is currently Israel's seventh largest city, with a population of just over 200,000.
4. Kiryat Eqron
5. Messy Bet Shemesh
Oops, I almost forgot Bet Shemesh. How could I? Incumbent ultra-orthodox mayor Moshe Abutbul apparently won the election in Bet Shemesh by less than 1,000 votes. The problem is that, according to the Jerusalem Post, more than 800 ballots were declared "invalid." As well, on election day, police raided two apartments owned by ultra-orthodox residents and confiscated more than 200 I.D. cards. Let's see...800 plus 200...
Challenger Eli Cohen has indicated that he is considering a legal challenge to the results based on reports of possible electoral fraud and "irregularities." According to the Post, more than 4,000 Bet Shemesh residents have signed a petition demanding that the results be suspended until a proper investigation is conducted.
6. Corruption? Pshaw.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that corruption charges were no barrier to re-election in Israel. This is illustrated by the results in Bat-Yam, Ramat Hasharon and Upper Nazareth all of which re-elected mayors facing corruption allegations or charges. Only in the city of Hadera, voters ousted a candidate who had been accused of taking bribes. In other jurisdictions these types of allegations seem to have enhanced electability or at least not impeded it.
None of the candidates, to my knowledge, were photographed smoking crack, talking on their cell phones while driving or accused of pinching other candidates in the buttocks at public events. These are all accusations that have been leveled against the current incumbent mayor of Toronto, Canada - Rob Ford. However, some of the allegations facing the Israeli mayoral candidates, some of whom were elected, - included bribery, corruption and racism. These charges were on par with the Toronto municipal scene and were no impediment to re-election in Israel.