Municipal Elections: A Vote for Apathy and a Nod to Corruption

Anyone who has been charged with corruption, whether on the local or the national level cannot be given a pass on the basis of a technicality or ulterior considerations.

There is a negative correlation between Knesset and municipal elections. In the former, issues of dire importance are on the agenda - peace and security, society and economy, religion and state. But despite the gravity of the issues, the voters' influence is limited: They are stripped of their power. It is given to the elected representatives, who cut deals among themselves. On the other hand, voters can have a direct affect close to home, through their votes for mayor and the city council. In the absence of regional representation in the legislature, it is in the local arena where most of the contact between citizens and elected officials take place, and here there is a clear index for measuring for award and punishment.

It would seem to follow from this that voters would show more interest in the local elections than in the Knesset elections, but in fact the reverse is true. Voter turnout for municipal elections is even lower than the disappointing figures for the national vote.

That is not a celebration of democracy, it's apathy next to indifference.

The news of the reelection of the mayors of Bat Yam, Upper Nazareth and Ramat Hasharon is disheartening. They were ousted on the order of the High Court of Justice just ahead of the election because they were indicted. Shlomi Lahiani, Shimon Gapso and Yitzhak Rochberger are not mere suspects in a police investigation, or waiting for the prosecution to decide whether to charge them. Criminal charges have been filed against them, and the High Court barred them from finishing out their terms. The court issued a clear message that no maneuver can get around nor reelection cancel out. They are unfit to be mayor.

The most disturbing aspect of the story is not their natural, egotistical desire to return to office. Much graver is the fact that many of their constituents do not feel the charges against them justify their removal from office. That is a mental failure, the foundation of which is a tendency to favor personal comfort over morality and ethics, and it is serious enough to overshadow what should be a celebration of democracy.

Anyone who has been charged with corruption, whether on the local or the national level cannot be given a pass on the basis of a technicality or ulterior considerations. Such issues are for the courts to decide, not voters. If new laws are needed in order to preclude a reoccurrence of this situation, then the attorney general, justice minister and interior minister should propose such legislation immediately.

Rami Shlush