Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Asaf Zamir casts his vote in the municipal elections on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
More than six and a half million Israelis are eligible to vote in some 11,000 polling stations across the country in Tuesday’s municipal elections.
Tuesday is a work holiday and most polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. to increase turnout. Unlike in Knesset elections, 17-year-olds are eligible to vote, and some 270,000 Israelis will be eligible to cast a ballot for the first time.
By 11 a.m., some 400,000 Israelis had already cast their votes throughout the country.
Most results will not be available until Wednesday, especially in the close races that are expected in Jerusalem and in other cities nationwide. If no candidate receives 40% of the vote, a run-off race among the top two candidates will be held on November 13, which is not a work holiday.
Voters will cast two paper ballots: One for mayor and one for city council, except in 28 communities where incumbent mayors are running unopposed, like Modi’in and Mevaseret Zion.
The candidates vying to replace Nir Barkat in the Jerusalem race ganged up against city councilman Moshe Lion on Monday, in an effort to prevent him from winning a spot in the run-off race against city councilman Ofer Berkovitch.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin
accused Lion’s campaign of sending tens of thousands of text messages to Jerusalem residents comparing Elkin to Gargamel, the villain in the Smurfs cartoon. Deputy mayor Yossi Daitch accused Lion of offering him a rotation in the mayor’s office if he would quit the race and endorse Lion.
Ofer Berkovitch at the voting station, October 30, 2018 (Marc Israel Sellem)
The Lion campaign denied both charges. Lion received a priestly blessing on Monday from the head of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Elkin’s campaign headquarters on Monday and said: “Jerusalem is a complex city, so it requires someone very talented and experienced like Elkin.”
If Elkin does not make the run-off it would be a blow to Netanyahu, who campaigned for him at Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market last week. The election could be seen as a bellwether of support for Netanyahu, who campaigned for candidates across the country over the past few months.
Other key mayoral races will be held in Haifa, where incumbent Yona Yahav is facing a serious challenge from urban planner Dr. Einat Kalisch-Rotem, and in Beit Shemesh, where Shas incumbent Moshe Abutbul is being opposed by educator Aliza Bloch. Another mayor whose job is in jeopardy is Ra’anana’s Eitan Ginzburg.
In Bat Yam, incumbent Yossi Bachar’s main challenger is Tzvika Brot, who was the strategist of US President Donald Trump’s campaign in Israel. Netanyahu endorsed Bachar, even though Brot is the candidate of the Likud.
Channel 2 revealed Monday that the reason Netanyahu opposed Brot was because he received mistaken information that Brot’s strategist was Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Shlomo Filber, who is the state’s witness against Netanyahu in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair. The Likud denied the report and said Bachar received the endorsement because he is a member and has the best chance of winning.
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