Multiple haredi names abound in 2008 Jerusalem mayoral race

Jerusalem's first haredi mayor may face two prominent haredi opponents when he comes up for reelection in two years.

Jerusalem's first haredi mayor may face two prominent haredi opponents when he comes up for reelection in two years. City hall is already rife with speculation that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski may be facing competition from at least two other haredi candidates, including former Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack from Lupolianski's own United Torah Judaism Party, in addition to the expected array of secular candidates. A repeat Lupolianski race against Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat, or the former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy - both secular candidates - in the November 2008 election has now been overshadowed by the prospect - based on speculation and media leaks - that Deri and even Pollack are considering entering the race. Levy, who is due to complete his tenure as Israel police representative to the US this year, has been contemplating a run for the job, unless he is appointed to be the next Israel police chief, his long-held dream. Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, who rose to national fame last year with his all-paid Eilat weekend holiday offer for hard-hit Sderot residents, has also been touted as a possible candidate in the capital's mayoral race, although he is considered to be a long-shot. In the topsy-turvy world of Israeli politics, no one single candidate - including Lupolianski - has declared his intention to take part in the race to date, with most expected to do so only next year. But the mayor, who has let out mixed signals on the issue, is seen as increasingly keen on winning a second term. His recent suspension of a deeply controversial westward city expansion plan were seen as the latest indication that he planned to run for mayor in 2008, and analysts saw his move as an indication that he was eager to garner the respect -if not the outright support - of environmentalists who bitterly fought the building proposal. More than one prominent secular candidate in the race would greatly boost the chances of a second Lupolianski victory, while multiple haredi candidates would bolster the secular candidates. About one-third of the city's Jewish residents are haredi, and their support is deemed critical in any election victory in the city.