UTJ to choose Porush as candidate for J'lem mayor

MK's associates say there is "zero chance" Lupolianski will again be UTJ's candidate in the race.

MK Meir Porush 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
MK Meir Porush 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
To end months of political speculation, MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism Party is expected to be selected Monday as his party's candidate for this year's Jerusalem mayoral race in place of current Mayor Uri Lupolianski, officials said Sunday. Porush, a 53-year-old father of 12, has been working in government for the last quarter century, including the past 12 years in the Knesset, and 13 years in the Jerusalem Municipality. The veteran haredi lawmaker has served as deputy minister of housing, and previously as the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, where his responsibilities included the portfolio for improving the city and haredi education. The Monday evening decision will be made by 25 members of the board of Agudat Yisrael, one of two factions making up United Torah Judaism, a party official said. According to a party rotation agreement signed before the last elections, Lupolianski was to serve one term as representative of the party's second faction, Degel HaTorah, and then a candidate from Agudat Yisrael would replace him. In recent months, however, Lupolianski had indicated privately that he was interested in running for a second term in violation of the pre-election accord, the officials said, but he later confirmed he would not run if the party selected another candidate. Porush associates said Sunday there was "zero chance" that Lupolianski would again be the party's candidate in the race, dismissing speculation that the mayor would be called as the UTJ's candidate a month before the elections as "pure propaganda" put out by Lupolianski acolytes. Barring any eleventh-hour changes, Porush is expected to face-off against both Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat, and the Russian-Israeli billionaire tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak in the November 11 elections. Gaydamak, who is lagging a distant third in the polls, has repeatedly refused to join forces with Barkat, even if running against him would afford Porush a victory by splitting the non-haredi vote.