Low voter turnout was reported in cities across the country when Israelis went
to the ballot box for municipal elections on Tuesday, with 42.63 percent of
Israel’s 5,469,041 eligible voters casting their votes at the country’s 8,771
polling stations as of 8:30 p.m.
The numbers were a significant drop from
2008, when 51% of voters took part across Israel, and far below the 66.6%
turnout in the last Knesset election.
Israelis voting in the election
cast two ballots – one for the mayor or local authority head and the second for
the party list.
The turnout was even lower in Israel’s two flagship
municipal races, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where only 22% reported by 8:30 p.m.
and 32% in the capital.
Though voting results weren’t posted by press
time, it was expected that incumbent Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai would retain his
post, as well as incumbents Ruvik Danilovich in Beersheba and Yona Yahav in
Haifa. In Jerusalem, incumbent Nir Barkat was in a hotly contested battle with
challenger Moshe Lion.
Much higher than average turnout was reported
across the Arab sector, including Ka’abiyye-Tabbash-Hajajre with 92%, Sakhnin
with 87%, Kfar Qara with 78%, and Abu Ghosh and Abu Sanaan, where 67% and 70% of
voters took part in the election.
Some of the lowest participation rates
were reported in the neighboring Jewish towns of Bat Yam, Holon, and Rishon
Lezion in central Israel, with turnouts of 24%, 25%, and 27%.
Minister Gideon Sa’ar, whose ministry is responsible for municipal elections,
expressed concern over the low turnout numbers in the afternoon.
very important to vote and I call on citizens to vote,” he said. “I hope that
we’ll see a rise in the numbers in the coming hours.”
were high in places like Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, candidates in much of the
country were busy battling apathy, trying to convince people to exercise their
democratic rights after 8,771 ballot boxes were set up in 191 municipalities at
Mayors of major cities like Haifa, Beersheba and Tel Aviv were
expected to be reelected by wide margins, which could have kept voters home. In
fact, 70% of the 689 mayors were running for reelection. “People have given
their lives to have the right to vote – just look at our neighboring countries –
and yet there are a lot of people who aren’t voting,” Netanya Mayor Miriam
Feirberg-Ikar, who had a good chance at reelection, said Tuesday
Throughout Tuesday, ministers and MKs crisscrossed the country
to support their parties’ lists, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu kept mum
as to who he chose in the tight Jerusalem mayoral race.
to reveal whether or not he voted for his party’s official candidate Lion, who
was handpicked by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who campaigned for
Lion himself, and Shas leader Arye Deri.
Opposition leader Shelly
Yacimovich (Labor) called for voters to “choose candidates who aren’t corrupt
and don’t wait for the High Court to depose mayors.”
“Mayors have a deep
influence on citizens’ lives, sometimes even more than ministers and MKs, so I
call for the public to go to the polls,” she added.
Economy and Trade
Minister Naftali Bennett traveled throughout the South expressing hope that
Tuesday would be the last day that Bayit Yehudi doesn’t have any
“Bayit Yehudi hopes to double its power and turn into an
influential factor in local politics like it is nationally,” he
Both Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid invested substantial efforts in
local elections as part of a strategy to further establish themselves as major
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is backing an
Ethiopian- Israeli candidate for mayor of Kiryat Malachi – the first from the
community to ever run for mayor in Israel – and several others for city
The youngest mayoral candidate in the country, Moti Haziza, 29,
is running with the Bayit Yehudi.
Shas leader Deri started his day by
visiting the grave of his party’s recently deceased spiritual leader Rabbi
The Sephardic-haredi party has 87 lists running in the
election, as well as candidates for mayor in Elad, Beit Shemesh, Emanuel and Or
Two MKs are running for mayor: Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) in Tel
Aviv and Haneen Zoabi (Balad) in Nazareth. If they win they will have to resign
from the Knesset.
In Ariel, by the closing of the polls last night, there
was a 47% voter turnout of the 14,441 eligible voters choosing among 25 ballots,
according to Interior Ministry data.
By evening, mayoral candidate Hana
Golan posted on her Facebook wall that rumors she had withdrawn from the race
were false and encouraged voters to continue to go out and vote.
daughter Bat, speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone said people were spitting
on members of Golan’s team.
Reached by phone, incumbent Mayor Eli Shaviro
said he didn’t hear about the spitting and that his team had given guidance to
supporters on how to behave and believes his supporters behaved with respect and
dignity. He said throughout the day he was focused on the task ahead and feels
content with the amount of people that came out to vote.
In Beit Shemesh,
eight people were arrested with more than 200 fraudulent ID cards, but otherwise
police reported only minor disturbances at polling places across the country on
Police officers fielded about 1,060 election complaints, most of
which were smallscale events, and campaigns reported only sporadic ballot
irregularities. Police responded to 400 disturbances around polling stations and
370 complaints about illegal election propaganda.
Altogether 16 people
were detained and 20 arrested in relation to voting throughout
Officers arrested two people for allegedly fighting at a polling
place in Saknin, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. In addition, police
officers are searching for a person in Jerusalem who allegedly waved a knife and
“threatened people in connection with elections,” he said.
station on Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem was closed after election officials
noticed the disappearance of ballots for mayoral candidate Lion, his campaign
Lion’s team set up headquarters in the capital’s Ramada
Renaissance Hotel after the polls closed, with the expectations of holding a
victory party when the results were announced.
Lion’s camp was bolstered
by the relatively high turnout from the haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem,
compared to the light turnout in the mixed secular and religious
Laura Kelly contributed to this report.