Three down, two to go

Inside Jerusalem's mayoral race, as three candidates were elimated on election day and two— Ofer Berkovitch and Moshe Lion— moved on to a runoff.

At the end of the 15 hours that polling stations were open, only 222,000 Jerusalem residents bothered to cast ballots – merely a third of the 636,000 eligible – including in the Arab sector qualified to vote. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
At the end of the 15 hours that polling stations were open, only 222,000 Jerusalem residents bothered to cast ballots – merely a third of the 636,000 eligible – including in the Arab sector qualified to vote.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
At the end of a long day that started at 5 a.m. with a prayer at the Kotel, Yossi Daitch met his supporters at 3 a.m. at Binyenei Ha’uma and conceded his loss in the race.
“It is not so pleasant to be here now, knowing that I will not be the next mayor of Jerusalem,” he began.
Two hours earlier, Moshe Lion had met his supporters at the Pavilion banquet hall in Talpiot and said, “Jerusalem is not easy to get, but this is wonderful news and we will win the next round.”
Minister Ze’ev Elkin was the first to admit his failure, telling his supporters, “Sometimes one has to acknowledge a failure and not only the victories.” With 95% of the votes counted, he had won only 19%.
Ofer Berkovitch entered the Kedma hall in Mamilla early to celebrate a result that put him close to victory, with 29% of the votes – second only to Lion’s 33%. They will face off in a second round, scheduled for November 14.
Avi Salman got about 2,000 votes; neither he nor his list will be represented at the next city council. In fact, it seems that Lion will face the same problem, as his list didn’t get enough votes to enter the council. According to the rules of municipal elections, if Lion wins the second round, he will need a special permit from the interior minister to get the position, as mayors must have a list at the council.
Regarding Elkin’s surprising failure, considering the impressive support he received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some observers say that this critical support came too late. Others point to the fact that Elkin didn’t choose the best allies. “The deal with Bnei Torah (the Jerusalem Faction) was a great mistake – they brought only some 8,000 votes, but they are on the extremist side of the haredim,” admitted a member of Elkin’s team. He added that the fact that Elkin didn’t enjoy the support of all the Likud members in the city added to his inability to win.
A source in Berkovitch’s team claimed that Elkin was the only candidate who ran a negative and aggressive campaign. He blamed Elkin for the rumor that Berkovitch was financed by the New Israel Fund and said the accusation had the opposite effect.
It was the first time that election day was a sabbatical, yet Jerusalemites didn’t make a major effort to vote. At the end of the 15 hours that polling stations were open, only 222,000 residents bothered to cast ballots – merely a third of the 636,000 – including in the Arab sector qualified to vote. Most of the voters came to the ballot box after 4 p.m., somewhat of a reversal of normal habits. There was a slightly lower percentage of voters in the haredi sector; turnout was slightly higher in secular neighborhoods. The overall turnout was lower this year than it was in the 2013 elections – 35% compared to 43.6% five years ago.
With most votes counted, Hitorerut, Berkovitch’s list, will apparently be the largest list in the next council, with seven seats, closely followed by Degel Hatorah (five seats), and Jerusalem Will Succeed, the list formed by Elkin, with three seats (non-final results). Arab candidate Ramadan Dabbash’s “Our Jerusalem” list won 2,874 votes, most of them apparently from the Jewish sector. This was not enough to secure a council seat.
The split in the haredi sector created more lists, but the total number of haredi council representatives will apparently remain the same. The fact that their representation is scattered among four different groups with a high level of tension between them may break the united bloc they formed until now. With 33,741 votes – more than in 2013 – Shas will have six seats. Daitch, who made an impressive showing, winning almost 20% of the votes following a very short campaign (about a month), said that had the haredi sector united behind him instead of being split between two candidates, he would certainly have won. Daitch’s campaign did surprisingly well among the non-haredim, including two of the leading secular heads of local councils in the city, Bracha Edelstein (Baka) and Ofir Lang (Lev Ha’ir).
Mostly, election day was calm, with minor incidents reported at only three ballot boxes. One resident reportedly sprayed tear gas and another resident tried to vote twice, but all such irregularities were immediately stopped and prevented from disturbing the voting. In some polling stations on the west side, Dabbash voting slips disappeared for a while, and there were several complaints about the size of the letters on Lion’s slip, which were larger and bolder than on all the other slips. It turned out it was the result of a technical mistake. Many voters felt that it was wrong to allow it, but the slips remained in the voting booths – it was too late to print new ones.
During the coming two weeks prior to the run-off round, the two remaining candidates – Berkovitch and Lion – will try to win the support of the voters for the two candidates who were eliminated. Berkovitch was the first to act. Even before the results appeared, he called on Daitch’s and Elkin’s supporters to join him and form an alliance against Lion.
Lion also called for the same support, but much hinges on what the hassidic leadership decides. If the 41,102 voters for Daitch are asked to back Lion or Berkovitch in the second round, this will be decisive.
“That is our next mission,” said a member of the Berkovitch team. One thing is certain – the relationship between Daitch and Berkovitch is more than simply correct. Many observers believe that even if there is no formal deal between them, a high level of understanding exists and could lead to some form of collaboration.
As for Elkin, he announced immediately that, as he made clear from the beginning, he is not remaining here for the council, but pledged he would help and support any mayor elected from the perch of his Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.