Nir Barkat was reelected mayor of Jerusalem on Tuesday night, beating Likud
Beytenu candidate Moshe Lion by almost 6 percent of the vote, some 12,000
A total of 218,512 people cast ballots in the mayoral election,
representing 37.9% of eligible voters, down from 43% in 2008. Barkat won 51.1%
of the vote while Lion received 45.3%.
The incumbent’s campaign staff
became increasingly nervous throughout Tuesday due to low voter turnout,
especially in nonharedi neighborhoods, coupled with high participation in
Following his victory, Barkat visited the
Western Wall on Wednesday morning and said that in the coming weeks he would
begin talking with all the political factions in the municipal council to build
“We’ll start with those who supported me and move on to the
others,” he noted wryly. “The objective is a broad, fair, coalition that can
Later on Wednesday, Barkat acknowledged that the race
had been hard-fought and tough, while accusing Shas chairman Arye Deri and
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who backed Lion, of seeking to seize
control of Jerusalem.
“Both Liberman and Deri have a great deal of
political power and they wielded all of it to silence people even though their
own sectors were with me,” Barkat said in an interview with Channel
The mayor has consistently touted his cross-sector appeal and the fact
that haredi parties were part of his previous municipal administration and had
expressed satisfaction with his leadership of the capital.
“I elected to
work with the city residents and they [Deri and Liberman] chose to work the
political system behind closed doors and by doing deals,” he continued, in
explanation of why the election was so close.
The saving grace for Barkat
was the disunity in haredi ranks which deprived Lion of several thousand crucial
Bnei Torah, a breakaway non-hassidic haredi faction, refused to
withdraw its candidate Haim Epstein from the race. He took 7,428 votes in the
election, or 3.6% of those cast.
The party’s refusal to stand down led
the hassidic groups in the city to believe that Lion could not win, and two of
the largest hassidic courts, Gur and Belz, announced on the eve of the elections
that they were not endorsing Lion for fear of burning their bridges with
In his concession speech, Lion thanked Liberman for his support
and wished the city of Jerusalem success into the future.
Lion has yet to
say whether he will take up the single seat Likud Beytenu won on the municipal
“Yesterday was a celebration of democracy,” the losing candidate
told the media.
“I lost, that’s the reality, and I wish only success for
the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants in particular. I wish Barkat success
and that he will be concerned only with the residents.”
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