Mea Shearim elections disqualified after violence

Group of haredi men destroy ballots during counting; vote to take place at later date.

haredi bus 'mehadrim bus' _311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
haredi bus 'mehadrim bus' _311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Jerusalem Municipality was forced to disqualify the local election for community council in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood on Tuesday, after extremists stormed into the counting room and destroyed some of the ballots.
A new election will be held at a later date, the municipality decided on Thursday following the recommendations of the judge overseeing the elections.RELATED:Mea She’arim shop accedes to vandalist demandsWave of arrests in Mea She’arim may dampen protests
Jerusalem police chief Nisso Shaham announced on Thursday that a special police investigation would be conducted into the incident, and supported the municipality’s decision to invalidate the results.
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 Bukharim Quarter, which includes Mea Shaarim.
The low turnout was expected as it is the first year that these communities can vote for their local council.
The Bukharim 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 Shaarim 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.
“The municipality condemns every incident of violence, and the attempt to influence the elections is not the democratic approach,” said a spokeswoman on Thursday.
Haredi media said that the protest was more likely due to a competition between two candidates rather than an attempt to exclude women from voting.
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 last year, and each year four or five neighborhoods are expected to elect a new council.
Election organizers in the Bukharim Quarter told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that both of the female candidates had dropped out of the election due to concern over the “lack of modesty” involved in campaigning.
They called on the municipality to find an alternative way to allow women to take part in the community council leadership.