Jerusalem mayor faces a council as fragmented as his city

Jerusalem mayor faces a council as fragmented as his city

Nir Barkat may have won a second term in office, but his party holds only four seats out of 31 at City Hall

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jerusalem's City Hall (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Jerusalem's City Hall (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

The reelected mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was looking Wednesday at a city council in which his own party controlled only a small portion of the 31 seats around the big wooden table at City Hall.

Following Tuesday’s municipal elections, the biggest faction in the capital’s new council is the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, which maintained the eight seats it held in the previous five-year term. Another ultra-Orthodox party, the Sephardic Union (Shas), won five seats, one more than it held before.

Barkat’s own party, Jerusalem Will Succeed, dropped from six to four seats. The Hitorerut Yerushalayim (Wake Up Jerusalem) faction quadrupled its representation, winning four seats. Meanwhile, the Yerushalmim party, led by council member Rachel Azaria, scooped up two seats, double its previous number.

Alongside its failed campaign to unseat incumbent Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and replace him with its own candidate Moshe Lion, the Likud-Beytenu party only managed to preserve its single seat on the council.

Barkat said in his victory address early Wednesday that he intended to leave “no sector” and “no tribe” behind in running the city. Recalling that he had led a near wall-to-wall coalition over the past five years, he urged all parties to work together with him for the development of the capital.

Later Wednesday, Barkat said he would “naturally” reach out first to those parties that had backed him for mayor, and then “expand from there” in building his coalition.

Lion said he intended to stay in Jerusalem, at least for the time being, Walla news reported overnight. However, the defeated mayoral candidate, who hails from Givatayim, declined to comment on his long-term plans or if he intended to take up that council seat.

The remaining seven seats were grabbed by a number of smaller parties, including two seats for the left-leaning Meretz-Labor party, led by veteran city councilman Pepe Alalu, which lost one of its previous three. The new right-wing Yerushalayim Meuhedet (United Jerusalem) party secured two seats, which it may have gained from the national religious faction, currently known as Jewish Home, which fell from three seats to one.

The Bnei Torah ultra-Orthodox party and a representative from the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood earned one seat apiece.

Israelis voted nationwide in local elections on Tuesday with a turnout of only 42.6 percent. Turnout in Jerusalem was 35.9%.

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