The 2023 elections are underway. Mayor Moshe Lion stated earlier this month, during special municipal events for International Women’s Day, that his list for city council in the upcoming elections will be divided equally between men and women. He said that he supports women being promoted to key positions and noted that a large number of women indeed were promoted during his tenure, including in his own office, which also consists of a majority of women.
It was a general statement but not really binding. In the previous elections, Lion ran with the commitment to clean up the city – a promise that he has fulfilled, including in the city’s eastern sector and in the Old City. But regarding the upcoming municipal elections, scheduled for Tuesday, October 31, Lion’s main message remains unclear.
The 2018 elections were particularly stormy, when a record number of nine candidates were vying to be mayor. In contrast, at least for now, it seems that the only candidate is Lion. So far, no one is running against him. But in Jerusalem, everything can change.
Spotlight on the Jerusalem City Council
At this stage, most of the attention is directed at the city council, where the most important decisions regarding the life of the city and its residents are made. The parties are vying for the 30 seats, plus one more seat for the mayor.
The current city council does not reflect the composition of the city’s residents. With 17 seats in the hands of various religious factions, it is clear that there is unequal representation of the city’s residents, the reasons for which are many.
The city’s population is divided into three parts: ultra-Orthodox; Arabs; and the general public, both secular and religious. There is a perception that ultra-Orthodox voters cast their ballots according to their community affiliation. But that is not accurate. Many Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox vote for nationalist ultra-Orthodox lists (Hardal), and a high percentage of Sephardi ultra-Orthodox vote for Likud. But generally speaking, haredim tend to vote for the haredi lists.
However, the major national parties are not really represented on the city council because the Jerusalem voting patterns are more connected to local identities. For instance, the major non-Orthodox parties do not have a significant presence on the city council. The Hitorerut movement, for example, at its peak was made up of Likud voters, in addition to those who identified with the Labor party.
Six months before election day, there are some simple things that can be done: Instead of repeating the shameful statement that the haredim control the city council and the city, residents should simply start organizing and create lists that would represent them and their needs. And, most importantly, go out to vote. ❖