Givatayim elections to go to 2nd round

Labor 'stunt' of poster showing Iris Avraham with Peres upsets Kadima.

peres horrified 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
peres horrified 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Municipal officials announced on Wednesday that a second round in the Givatayim municipal elections will be held in two weeks following the failure of any candidate to achieve the required 40 percent of the ballots in Tuesday's vote. Despite their candidate's second-place showing, Kadima campaign managers expressed satisfaction with the results. According to a statement by a Kadima spokesman, "[Reuven] Ben-Shachar is going to the next round in a place that traditionally [goes] to Labor." The municipal elections, called after former Givatayim mayor Effi Stenzler left the position to become chairman of the Jewish National Fund, are widely seen as a test for Kadima. It is the party's first municipal race, and is expected to demonstrate whether the Kadima brand has traction on the local level. Givatayim offers Kadima a particularly difficult race. The town has been a Labor bastion for over three decades, voting consistently for the Labor list in national elections and electing a succession of Labor mayors that faced little opposition from other parties. In the Tuesday elections, Labor candidate Iris Avraham garnered 37% of the vote, followed by Kadima's Ben-Shachar, with 31%. Independent candidates Yoram Ran and Tali Argaman, who split the remaining votes evenly, will not go to the second round. According to unconfirmed reports, Yoram Ran has already decided to back Avraham for mayor, while Argaman apparently won't back either candidate. The second round is expected to be a particularly close race. One of the reasons cited by campaign activists is that both parties campaigns are appealing to the historic tendency of Givatayim voters to support former Labor leader and current Kadima minister Shimon Peres. Givatayim's voters, the oldest in the country, followed Peres when he left Labor for Kadima after losing the Labor leadership race last year. The new party beat Labor by ten points in the last national election, a result that amounted to a dramatic upset following decades of voter loyalty to Labor candidates. Both parties tried to invoke Peres' popularity. Ahead of the election, Peres visited the town to announce his support for Ben-Shachar and to encourage residents to vote for Kadima's candidate. But Peres's declaration of his loyalty to Kadima did not deter Labor from using his image in a campaign flyer distributed on election day, leading Kadima activists to complain that the picture - showing Peres and Avraham standing next to each other - was a "stunt" and even a "lie." Peres himself, along with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and other senior Kadima officials and campaign activists, hurriedly released a renewed message of support for Ben-Shachar, and many expressed dismay at what they called the "stunt" of the Labor campaign.