Barkat: J'lem has room for everyone

New J'lem mayor pledges to help secular, religious, Left, Right; final count: Barkat 52%, Porush 43%.

Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Secular businessman Nir Barkat won the Jerusalem municipal election and will succeed Uri Lupolianski as mayor of the capital. The result was officially declared Wednesday morning when votes had been counted at all 707 polling stations, with Barkat garnering just over 52 percent of the vote, MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party just over 43%, Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak 3.5% and Dan Birron of the Green Leaf Party wining 0.5%. However, despite his win, Barkat's party, Jerusalem Shall Succeed, did not win a majority in the city council, but rather came in second behind United Torah Judaism. Wake up Jerusalem, a new party made up of young, mostly secular Jerusalemites, won two mandates, while Gaydamak's Social Justice party did not win any seats. Barkat made a victory speech to a crowd of celebrating supporters at a Bayit v'Gan hotel, calling the win "a victory for Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people... for the Left and the Right, the secular and the religious." "Tonight," he went on, "is holy for all those who see Jerusalem as their home." Barkat praised his rivals Porush and Gaydamak and called for cooperation across the political and religious spectrums. "There is room in Jerusalem for everyone," he said, adding "if there's not room for everyone, then there's not room for anyone." Being mayor of Jerusalem will be hard, said Barkat, but promised to be a mayor to everyone, whether they voted for him, voted for another candidate, or didn't turn up to vote at all. In Jerusalem, 41% of eligible voters came to the polls, compared with 38% five years ago, according to the Interior Ministry. The elections were marred by only a few reports of irregularities or violence throughout Tuesday. Barkat's camp complained to police that in several polling stations, voting slips bearing the candidate's name had mysteriously gone missing and that his Web site had been hacked in to. In the afternoon, a policeman was lightly injured in the head by a stone thrown by a group of several dozen haredi men who came to a city polling station and tried to stop people from voting, police said. The protesters were dispersed by police. Also, Arabs held a commercial strike in several east Jerusalem neighborhoods in protest of the elections in the capital and police detained two young Arabs for allegedly threatening business owners to keep their stores shut. As in years past, Arab residents of east Jerusalem boycotted the municipal election, with less than 1 percent of east Jerusalem Arab voters casting a ballot in the race by midday. The insignificant turnout among Arab votes was a stinging blow for the third major candidate in the race, Gaydamak, who had courted the Arab vote in the city. AP contributed to this report.