Polls Open for Run-off Elections in 31 Communities

Polls will again open this morning for runoff elections in 31 local councils in which no candidate obtained the 40-percent minimum of the ballots cast during election two weeks ago. Today, the two candidates with the largest number of votes will compete. Most of the locales where a second round of voting is needed are Arab communities, but voters in the cities of Rehovot and Kiryat Shmona are also going to the polls again.

In Rehovot, two-time Mayor Shuki Forer is fending off challenger Uzi Salant as well as an imminent indictment over alleged election funding irregularities dating back to his first mayoral campaign in 1998.

The pending indictment, which has been brewing for some time, did not stop Forer from announcing his intention to seek reelection whether or not charges were filed against him.

Forer led the mayoral poll with 34 percent of the vote, but that was not enough to prevent a runoff against Salant.

In Kiryat Shmona, the choice will be much easier: In the first round there were a total of nine candidates battling to become mayor. Now it's down to two independent candidates, Rabbi Nissim Malka and Ya'akov Ben Tzion. Though Malka garnered the most votes in the November 11 election, five years ago he went up against Mayor Haim Barbivai and lost.

Runoff elections are being held in 16 Arab and Druze communities, most of them in the north, including the cities of Shfaram and Tamra in the Western Galilee as well as Rahat in the south. Also going to the polls today are the residents of the Druze communities of Maghar and Julis.

In Kafr Qasem, the first round of voting was not decisive but today's election will be a mere formality: The two candidates slated to face-off today came to an agreement, brokered by Sheikh Abdallah Nirm Darwish, founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel and other public figures, according to which one of the candidates has bowed out.