Yesh Atid MK Barbivai launches challenge to veteran Tel Aviv mayor Huldai

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

MK Orna Barbivai at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 27, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
MK Orna Barbivai at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 27, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Yesh Atid lawmaker Orna Barbivai launches her campaign for Tel Aviv mayor against five-term incumbent Ron Huldai.

Flanked by party lawmakers, the former minister and military general says that she “appreciates” Huldai and that he is a “good mayor” whom she voted for in the past, but believes that after a quarter-century, the city needs something “fresh.”

“I appreciate and I even like Ron. But the time has come for a change,” she says to a crowd of about 200 activists gathered at an event space on top of the Tel Aviv Municipality.

“There is no one, as talented as he is, that can do the same role for 25 years with the same ability. It’s time to pass the baton.”

The vote will be held on October 31. Barbivai is the sixth candidate to enter the race.

Her candidacy is part of what opposition leader Yair Lapid says is a “strategic decision” to try to party representatives elected as mayors in “cities with liberal values.”

Since its 2012 founding, Yesh Atid has carved a dominant role in centrist national politics. However, the party has yet to develop local-level depth, despite amassing a network of about 130 to 140 local branches and a significant volunteer base.

Party insiders say their municipal election strategy is two-fold, focusing both on developing power bases in local authorities as a counterweight to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition and to develop the next level of national party leadership, through the municipal layer.

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