Hasson: Kadima has become ruling party on local level; Labor, Shas, Likud express satisfaction.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Parties from across the political spectrum declared victory in Tuesday's municipal races and vowed to use their local strength to help them in the February 10 general election.
The head of Kadima's governing council, Meir Nitzan, lost the Rishon Lezion mayoral race after 25 years in power; veteran Kadima mayors Ya'acov Turner in Beersheba and Tzvi Tzilker in Ashdod also lost.
But Kadima now boasts 33 mayors directly affiliated with the party, another eight the party supported jointly with other parties and eight more who face runoffs. Kadima was especially proud of 12 municipalities in which the party beat Likud candidates.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni called the mayors from New York to congratulate them.
"Kadima faced its first test in the municipal elections and proved that it has the public's trust," Livni said. "We are now the ruling party on the municipal level and if we perform similarly in the general election, we will be the largest party and form the next government."
MK Yoel Hasson, who headed Kadima's municipal campaign, boasted that his party had dozens of mayors and hundreds of councilmen while "Labor and Likud were almost wiped out."
Labor, which now has 23 mayors, also expressed satisfaction with Tuesday's results. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, who led Labor's campaign, took credit for victories in Beersheba and Rishon, where new mayors won who are Labor members but did not run under the party's banner.
"Labor won in most of the big and medium-sized cities," Simhon said. "We strengthened ourselves in the center of the country and the periphery."
MK Eitan Cabel, who is Labor's secretary-general, said the party's successes were especially impressive in light of the low budget of NIS 13 million that the bankrupt party was able to allocate to the races.
A Likud source said she was pleasantly surprised with the results and that the party had maintained its strength, while winning new mayoral posts in Ashdod, Modi'in and Kiryat Bialik.
The Likud came into the race with low expectations and a low budget, because party funding is allocated by the number of seats parties have in the Knesset and the Likud only has 12.
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said his party doubled its strength at the municipal level on Tuesday and that he expected to do the same in the Knesset election.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai, whose party had only one mayor (in Elad) before the election, said he was proud that Shas won three more. He said the results were a key vote of confidence in Shas ahead of the general election.
National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev said the religious Zionists helped Nir Barkat win in Jerusalem and that by uniting together with the National Union, the number of religious Zionist councilmen nationwide had increased.
He said that unity in the national-religious camp had proved itself, and it would do the same in the general election.
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