Israel's Supreme Court Orders New Election in Nazareth

Supreme Court decision will pit Ali Salam against Ramez Jerayssi for a second time, after narrow win, disqualified ballots and accusations of voter fraud.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a new local election in Nazareth on March 11, overturning last month’s decision by the Nazareth District Court in the case.

Challenger Ali Salam who left Hadash to run as an independent, was declared the winner in last October’s mayoral election in the city, beating incumbent Ramez Jerayssi by just 22 votes. Jerayssi appealed the result in Nazareth District Court, demanding that 39 votes that were cast for him but disqualified for technical reasons be counted toward his total. The mayor also asked the court to process 47 unopened ballots.

The court agreed in December to count the unopened ballots, which gave Jerayssi a lead of nine votes against his rival. But a later investigation by the Interior Ministry and the Shin Bet security service determined that 11 votes were cast by individuals who were either abroad or in custody on election day.

These findings prompted Ali Salam to demand that either his own disqualified votes be counted or the election repeated. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein recommended a repeat vote to the Nazareth court. The court rejected both Salam’s petition and Weinstein’s recommendation on procedural grounds, saying they missed a filing deadline.

Justice Daphne Barak-Erez, explaining in the verdict the Supreme Court’s decision to order a new election, wrote that although holding a repeat vote is a hardship for both voters and candidates, “not voiding the results, and allowing an election shrouded in suspicion to stand for five years, could also cause hardship.” She added that the principle of clean elections that express the will of the voters necessitates a repeat vote for the mayor of Nazareth.