MK Porush sets sights on J'lem mayoralty

Lupolianski faces a stiff challenge from within his own party.

MK Meir Porush 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
MK Meir Porush 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Three months before the Jerusalem mayoral race, Mayor Uri Lupolianski faces a stiff internal challenge to his run for reelection, as MK Meir Porush, from the mayor's own United Torah Judaism party, was chosen late Thursday as his faction's candidate for mayor. The haredi party's selection process is complicated by the fact that United Torah Judaism is comprised of two different factions: Porush's Agudat Yisrael, and Lupolianski's Degel Hatorah. According to a party rotation agreement signed before the last elections, Lupolianski was to serve one term and then a candidate from Agudat Yisrael would replace him. In recent months, however, Lupolianski has indicated privately that he is interested in running for a second term in violation of the pre-election accord, party officials said. The internecine dispute is expected to be resolved on August 11 when the whole party is expected to decide on its candidate for the race, the party officials said Thursday. Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling declined to comment. Meanwhile, Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat remains the main challenger to either potential haredi candidate, since, for the second city mayoral election in a row, none of the major national political parties has fielded a popular candidate for the race. With haredim comprising one-third of Jewish voters in Jerusalem, the haredi candidate is seen as being an automatic front-runner in the election. Barkat's chances of scoring an upset victory would be diminished further if the Israeli-Russian billionaire tycoon Arcady Gaydamak also runs in the race, as he has repeatedly said he will, since the non-haredi vote would then be divided. Public opinion polls indicate that Gaydamak lags a distant third in a potential three-way race against Lupolianski, and Barkat.