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Secular candidate Nir Barkat would defeat the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MK Meir Porush by more than 20 percent if Jerusalem were to hold mayoral elections today, two recent surveys show.

However, both polls forecast a fairly close race between Barkat, who currently heads the opposition in Jerusalem's city council, and the ultra-Orthodox incumbent mayor, Uri Lupolianski, should he receive the Haredi candidacy.

The polls found that Porush would lose to Barkat even if the non-Haredi vote were split among several different candidates, though by a smaller margin. In a head-to-head race, one poll, by Geocartography, found Barkat winning 54 percent of the vote to Porush's 33 percent; a Dahaf poll showed a similar spread.

It is not yet clear that Porush will be the Haredi candidate: He is expected to get the nod from his Agudat Yisrael party next Monday, but still needs approval from Degel Hatorah, the other party that comprises the joint United Torah Judaism list.

Porush's staff rejected the polls Wednesday and accused his rivals of "an attempt to intimidate the Haredi and secular public." At least one of the polls was apparently commissioned by one of his rivals.

Prof. Avi Dagani, who runs Geocartography, said that his poll, taken two weeks ago, shows that "Porush has no chance of becoming mayor of Jerusalem. What emerges is that Lupolianski as the Haredi candidate is stronger than Porush by a factor of two, three or four ... It is clear that public opinion, both secular and Haredi, leans strongly against Porush."

Dagani's poll examined both Porush and Lupolianski in match-ups against one, two or three secular candidates, where the candidates in question were Barkat, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef and MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud). Businessman Arcadi Gaydamak was not included in the poll, and Dagani said this was at the request of the person who commissioned it.

While Dagani declined to say who commissioned his poll, speculation was rife in Haredi circles - both about who commissioned the polls, and about who disseminated them to the media. Members of Lupolianski's Degel Hatorah party insisted that the poll was commissioned by someone in Agudat Yisrael, in an effort to derail the party's expected choice of Porush. But Porush's associates pointed a finger at Degel, noting that it would have a clear interest in commissioning such a poll: The party would prefer to run Lupolianski for a second term, but is bound by a rotation agreement signed with Aguda before the last election, under which Lupolianski would only serve one term, and Degel would back an Aguda candidate the next time around. Thus its only hope is to convince Aguda that its candidate has no chance anyway.

"This is meant to thwart Porush's mayoral candidacy while ostensibly not violating the internal agreement between Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah," charged one Porush adviser, Moshe Friedman.

Porush's staff argued yesterday that little faith could be placed in the polls as long as no one knows who commissioned them and how the questions were formulated.

They also circulated polls of their own Wednesday, to show just how unwise it is to take polls as gospel. Inter alia, they circulated a Dahaf poll from before the last mayoral election that forecast Barkat beating Lupolianski by 2 percent. Instead, Lupolianski won by a margin of almost 10 percent.