Suspended Ashkelon mayor charged with bribery loses election by 350 votes

Itamar Shimoni ousted by former deputy Tomer Glam after soldiers’, prisoners’ ballots tallied; Ramat Hasharon mayor misses outright win by 6 votes

Mayor of Ashkelon Itamar Shimoni arrives to the Tel Aviv District Court on February 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Mayor of Ashkelon Itamar Shimoni arrives to the Tel Aviv District Court on February 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The extremely close Ashkelon mayoral elections were called Thursday morning in favor of acting mayor Tomer Glam, marking a loss for suspended mayor Itamar Shimoni, who is on trial on charges of bribery and breach of trust.

Shimoni had been trailing his rival by 200 votes with almost all ballots counted as of Wednesday. After the ballots of IDF soldiers and prisoners were tallied, it emerged that Glam had won by just 350 votes.

In February 2017, Shimoni was charged with accepting bribes totaling NIS 466,000 ($124,000) and with breach of trust for accepting a further NIS 575,000 ($153,000) from unknown sources while serving as mayor of the city. He was also charged with tax fraud. Sexual misconduct charges against him have been dropped.

The Interior Ministry suspended Shimoni from his position for a year in February 2017, later extending the ban until late November 2018. Shimoni had appointed his attorney as the no. 2 on his party list to be acting mayor should he win Tuesday’s elections.

Under Israeli law, candidates may run for local government with indictments or convictions to their names and may only be disqualified from the race with a conviction of a crime that carries moral turpitude.

Shimoni, 50, was elected mayor in 2013.

Meanwhile, in Ramat Hasharon, it was announced Thursday morning that incumbent mayor Avi Gruber missed an outright win by an ultra-slim margin of six votes.

Gruber will face rival Roni Belkin in a runoff on November 13. A candidate must secure 40 percent of the ballots to win outright, and if none meet that criterion, the two contenders with the most votes face each other in the second round.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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