Preliminary Jerusalem results show unprecedented Haredi majority on city council

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

A woman votes in the municipal elections in Jerusalem, on February 27, 2024 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
A woman votes in the municipal elections in Jerusalem, on February 27, 2024 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Preliminary results from the Jerusalem municipal elections indicate an unprecedented ultra-Orthodox takeover of the city council, with Haredi parties winning just over half the seats in the 31-seat legislative body.

While soldiers’ votes have yet to be counted and could alter the balance of power in the council, as things stand at the moment the ultra-Orthodox parties hold a collective 17 seats, with additional seats held by religious nationalist factions.

The Hasidic Agudat Yisrael party has come in at three seats, the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Degel HaTorah party at seven, the Jerusalem Faction-affiliated Bnei Torah at one, and the Sephardic Shas at six. In addition, the anti-LGBT Noam party and ultra-nationalist Deputy Mayor Arieh King’s United party are each expected to hold a single seat on the council.

This unprecedented showing for the ultra-Orthodox may have less to do with changing demographics in the capital than with the low voter turnout among mainstream voters this year, according to Jerusalem City Councilor Laura Wharton of the Meretz party.

“The major issue here was and is voting patterns and it’s always been known that the Haredim vote en masse and other groups do not,” she says.

“This time not only were there the usual differences in turnout but the majority mainstream Israeli population is still suffering and experiencing the war and turned out less than they usually do,” she explains. “For the Haredim it was business and usual and that was far more a determinant than the demographics.”

According to the Interior Ministry, only 31.5% of eligible voters in Jerusalem cast ballots yesterday.

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