The Race for Mayor

Israelis Head to the Polls to Vote in 2013 Municipal Elections

Incumbents in Tel Aviv and Haifa expected to claim victory; Jerusalem race heats up between secular incumbent Nir Barkat and Haredi-backed Moshe Leon.

Israelis head to the polls Tuesday to vote for mayors and other local officials as 191 cities, towns and other local authorities hold elections.

It’s looking like a year for incumbents in the big cities, with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich widely expected to retain their seats.

In Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat is facing off against challenger Moshe Leon, who is backed by Shas’ Aryeh Deri and Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman. But Leon does not have the full backing of the ultra-Orthodox that would have increased his chances of being propelled into office, with several Hasidic groups announcing Monday that they would not be endorsing his candidacy.

There are more than half a million eligible voters in the capital, but voter turnout was just 43 percent in the last local election, in 2008. Many Arab residents of East Jerusalem boycott Israeli elections, even though they are eligible to vote.

In Ramat Gan, Mayor Zvi Bar is stepping down after 24 years. Two of the candidates to replace him include Israel Singer, the principal of a local high school, and former Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen.

Three incumbent mayors charged with corruption are running for office, despite having been ousted at the end of their current terms because of the indictments: Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso; Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger; and Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani, who was ordered to step down by the High Court of Justice earlier this week.

The High Court has warned that such politicians may face dismissal again even if they are reelected.

In the 2008 local elections, two-thirds of incumbent mayors were reelected.

Voters will be electing the mayor (or head of the local authority) as well as a party and its municipal council list, using two separate voting slips.

The polls will be open from 7 A.M. to 10 P.M., and results are expected around midnight. Elections for the regional councils will be held December 24.

Israeli citizens aged 17 and over may vote in their city of residence, as registered at least 40 days before elections.