The most drama in Israel's municipal elections on Tuesday is expected to take place in Jerusalem, where a battle is raging between incumbent mayor Nir Barkat, who is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Moshe Leon, who has the support both of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and Shas' Aryeh Deri. Leon is hoping that the formula that brought Ehud Olmert to power in 1993 – when a secular mayor was running against a Likud candidate supported by a large ultra-Orthodox bloc – will work in his favor.
In an interview with Haaretz earlier this month, Barkat outlined his plan to beat Leon.
More than a third of those eligible to vote in the Jerusalem municipal elections are Palestinian, but very few usually turn up to vote. Fuad Sliman, the only Palestinian running for city council, is hoping that those fed up with the situation in East Jerusalem will show up at the ballot box on Tuesday.
In Tel Aviv, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz faces an uphill battle against incumbent mayor Ron Huldai, who has served for 15 years. If elected, Horowitz will become the first openly gay mayor in the Middle East.
Huldai is largely credited with turning Tel Aviv into the hip international destination it has become in recent years. One change, he told Haaretz, is that immigrants are arriving in Tel Aviv at a faster pace than any time since Israel's establishment.
The Ethiopian and ultra-Orthodox votes are being heavily courted in the south of Israel. After a decade of being run by an Interior Ministry-appointed committee, Ofakim is going to the polls with four candidates contending for mayor.
In the northern Israeli city of Haifa, as in 2008, Mayor Yona Yahav is running against Yaakov Borowski. Yahav is seeking a third term, while Borowski, the former commander of the Northern District Police, believes he could surprise everyone and win. The election in Haifa hasn't aroused much local interest, nor did the major political parties see any particular reason to get involved. For the first time in many years, neither Likud nor Labor is fielding a candidate. Aside from Yahav in Haifa, many other veteran mayors in the north are seeking public support for another term.
Among Israeli Arabs voters, a poll found that while most are unhappy with local services, they would still choose kin over competence in the polling booth. This year, 165 women are running on 73 tickets in 44 Arab towns and villages. Some 93 percent of voters surveyed said they would elect a female mayor if she proved she could do the job.
An unusual voice in this year's municipal elections is that of Ruth Colian, an ultra-Orthodox woman who has petitioned the High Court against political parties that exclude female candidates.
As for prime minister-wannabe Yair Lapid – the surprise of the national elections – his party continues to lose popularity. A distinct sign of this can be seen in the municipal elections. Six months ago, hundreds of candidates for local authorities clamored at his party's door. Within two months, however, these masses began to flee Yesh Atid. They don’t want to be identified with it or its leader.
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