ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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New mayors, more women: 2018 local elections summed up

Turnout was low, turnover was high in Tuesday’s run-off; Hof Ashkelon Regional Council vote postponed due to Gaza rocket barrage

A man holds voting notes of Jerusalem mayoral candidates Ofer Berkovich and Moshe Lion, during preparations for the upcoming second round of the Jerusalem municipal elections, at a warehouse in Jerusalem on November 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man holds voting notes of Jerusalem mayoral candidates Ofer Berkovich and Moshe Lion, during preparations for the upcoming second round of the Jerusalem municipal elections, at a warehouse in Jerusalem on November 11, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fifty-four municipalities held their second round of voting on Tuesday, ushering in changes in many of the country’s major urban centers.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and largest city, and therefore also the most closely watched run-off, Moshe Lion defeated Ofer Berkovitch by a slim margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5%.

Lion claimed victory, but Berkovitch did not concede defeat.

He said he was looking into alleged “irregularities” in voting, and also awaiting the counting Wednesday of 8,500 votes by IDF soldiers, prisoners, and those cast in hospitals.

Supporters of Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion (center) react as the preliminary results of the mayoral race are announced, November 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

In Israel’s fourth-largest city, Rishon Lezion, challenger Raz Kinstlich defeated two-term mayor Dov Tzur, a popular politician beset by corruption investigations, 53% to 47%.

Victories for Hagar Perry Yagur in Pardes Hannah-Karkur (with 54% of the vote) and Ye’ela Michal Maklis in Yahud-Monson (56%) boosted the number of women elected mayor in the latest election to 13, a dramatic increase from the scant five who won in the 2013 local elections.

In all, some 833,000 Israelis voted in the second round on Tuesday, a turnout of 43%.

It was a bad year for incumbents. Nissim Malka lost his seat in Kiryat Shmona to challenger Avichai Stern by a steep 37%-63% result. In Ramat Gan, Carmel Shama Hacohen, a former Likud lawmaker and Israeli ambassador to UNESCO and the OECD, ended a long-running contest with incumbent mayor Israel Zinger with a 56%-44% victory. In Bat Yam, Zvika Brot handily defeated incumbent Yossi Becher 63% to 37%.

Arkady Pomerantz unseated Israel’s longest-serving incumbent, 42-year Ma’alot-Tarshiha mayor Shlomo Buhbut, by a steep 65%-35% victory.

In Umm al-Fahm the change was especially pronounced. The Arab Israeli city once led by firebrand Islamist preacher Raed Salah has seen an incumbent identified with the Islamic Movement, Khaled Aghbaria, defeated 54%-46% by an independent former school principal, Dr. Samir Mahamid.

In Safed, Likud candidate Shuki Ohana defeated ultra-Orthodox candidate Nahman Avraham Gelbach by a sizable 61%-39% margin, helped by a splintering of the ultra-Orthodox vote in the city. In working-class Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, challenger Yitzhak Halevy defeated Dubi Cohen 55%-45%. And in wealthy Hod Hasharon, Amir Kochavi defeated former MK Yifat Kariv’s bid to run the city by a dramatic 69%-31% win.

Gush Eztion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman speaks at a ceremony opening a new Nature Reserve in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, December 12, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

In Gush Etzion, the only West Bank municipality to hold a run-off, incumbent Shlomo Ne’eman bucked the trend, holding onto his seat against repeat challenger Moshe Saville with a 56%-44% victory.

Local elections were put off in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council due to the rocket barrages from Gaza and Monday and Tuesday. The Interior Ministry has yet to announce a new election date.

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