Defeated mayoral candidate Eli Cohen calls on police to investigate Beit Shemesh elections

Knesset interior committee chair MK Miri Regev: we will have hearing on Beit Shemesh elections next week.

Eli Cohen 521 (photo credit: Courtesy )
Eli Cohen 521
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Several thousand Beit Shemesh residents gathered in front of city hall Tuesday night to protest alleged election fraud and to demand a new mayoral vote, following numerous reports of irregularities in the municipal elections that took place last Tuesday.
Incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul of Shas won reelection by a margin of some 950 votes, but defeated candidate Eli Cohen and his campaign have demanded an official investigation into what they say was widespread voting fraud on election day.
“Out of concern for the city, its future and its character, we are requesting that an investigation be carried out and completed into the fraud that was conducted in an attempt to subvert the elections,” Cohen said at the rally.
He added that “we respect all citizens and we will not have a religious war in Beit Shemesh, but democracy must be respected.”
Cohen said he would honor the results of an investigation.
Several Knesset members were also present at the protests, including Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev, both of Likud Beytenu.
Regev said she would be holding a hearing on the events and claims surrounding the Beit Shemesh elections.
“Democracy must be done in Beit Shemesh, and only citizens of Beit Shemesh can elect the next mayor,” she said stridently from the rally podium.
She said the police were looking into the claims but that an appeal to the courts would also be necessary.
Danon declared that the protest “is not against haredim, but is in favor of the purity of the electoral process.” He, too, demanded a formal investigation into the allegations of fraud.
“We cannot let fraud decide elections, and we will not abandon Beit Shemesh or leave you by yourselves,” he vowed. “We will struggle to get justice, and if needed, will have new elections.”
Yesh Atid MK and Beit Shemesh resident Rabbi Dov Lipman was present as well and said the irregularities that had occurred on election day were so severe that they warranted “new, free and fair elections.”
Tensions are now running extremely high in the city, with many in the non-haredi community increasingly angry over what they perceive as a stolen election, and haredi leaders accusing their opponents of incitement against the ultra- Orthodox community.
MK Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism said in the Knesset on Monday that “people who indulged in anti-Semitic incitement for months against the right to the haredim’s existence in Beit Shemesh have seized upon one problematic ballot station.”
On Monday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended until October 31 the remand of two men arrested in connection with voter fraud in Beit Shemesh. Another five men who were arrested on similar charges were released to house arrest.
One of the men whose remand was extended is the resident of an apartment in which police discovered 170 identity cards on election day.
Another 30 ID cards were found in another apartment in the same building.
Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Abutbul said that in light of the tense situation and following threats he had received, he had been assigned constant police protection.
The mayor also claimed that he had received an offer that if he gave the municipal construction portfolio “to the head of a certain secular party,” the protests against the election would stop. Abutbul declined to say who had made the offer.
According to haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat, police questioned the son of a haredi MK on Monday regarding the issue of voter fraud in the city.