Election won’t derail plans for Jerusalem local vote

Community council vote to go ahead on November 20, despite questions on holding local vote so close to national elections.

Nir Barkat (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Nir Barkat
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Community council elections in Jerusalem will go ahead as planned on November 20, despite questions about whether to hold local the vote so close to national elections, a Jerusalem municipal spokeswoman said on Sunday.
An article in the municipality’s charter prohibits community council elections from taking place within six months of national or city elections, in order to minimize party interference on a neighborhood level. A municipality spokeswoman said, however, the elections would take place as planned.
“The issue was examined by the Central Elections Committee chairwoman and retired judge Bilhah Kahana, the municipality’s legal adviser, and the legal adviser from the community councils [and they] all found that there is no reason to stop the elections at the appointed time,” she said.
Another spokeswoman added that since most of the lists for party membership are already closed, the threat of influence on a local level is minimized. Additionally, postponing the elections for six months after the national elections on January 22 would mean that the elections would be within six months of Jerusalem’s mayoral elections, set for fall 2013.
On November 20, residents in the 14 neighborhoods of French Hill, Givat Masua, Kiryat Menahem, Beit Hakerem, East Talpiyot, Neveh Ya’acov, City Center/Nahlaot, Kiryat Hayovel, Givat Shaul, Romema, Ramat Shlomo, Wadi Joz, Har Nof, Pisgat Ze’ev and Abu Tur will vote for their local councils.
The community councils are made up of nine elected members and six appointed members and deal with local issues such as cultural events, education and ensuring that the municipality carries out services.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat renewed the election process for community councils in 2010, and each year a number of neighborhoods are expected to elect a new council until the entire city has new community councils. Prior to the election process, some councils had not changed since they were appointed by former mayor Teddy Kollek.
Last year, nearly 13,000 residents of Jerusalem took part in local elections to choose representatives for the community councils in four neighborhoods.
Approximately 17 percent of eligible residents voted in the neighborhoods of Gilo, Greater Baka, South/Katamon and the Bukharan Quarter, which includes Mea She’arim.
The low turnout was expected as it is the first year that these communities can vote for their local council.
The Bukharan Quarter elections were tense, with local rabbis threatening to enforce gender separation at the polls in the days leading up to the vote.
A strong undercover police presence ensured that no gender separation took place and voting went peacefully for most of the day. However, at the very end of the night, extremists stormed into the voting station in the Mea She’arim neighborhood.
Shouting “Women, get out!” a group of haredi men forced the women to leave and tore up the voting slips, according to a video from Channel 2. Local haredi media said the disturbance was most likely the result of a clash between two candidates rather than an attempt to exclude women. The Bukharan Quarter elections were subsequently disqualified.