Israel’s 183 local governments were elected on Tuesday as Israelis across the country voted to determine local mayors and council members. In Jerusalem, a city of 550,000 residents, Nir Barkat was re-elected to another 5-year term in one of the mostly hotly contested races in the country against newcomer Moshe Leon, who was backed by two national political figures.
Tel Aviv incumbent, Ron Huldai who has served at the city’s mayor since 1998 was also re-elected over popular Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, while in Haifa, Mayor Yona Yahav was able to defeat rival Yaakov Borovsky. Israel’s three largest cities were able to retain their incumbent mayors.
Bat Yam also re-elected Mayor Shlomo Lahiani, who had been forced to resign his position by the High Court of Justice on Sunday.
In Jerusalem, Barkat had lead the way, with 55% of the votes while rival Moshe Lion garnered 41%, a difference of around some 12,000 votes. Lion’s backer Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had hoped a Lion victory would give him political momentum to challenge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Voter turn-out in Jerusalem was relatively low (35.9%) while higher than Tel Aviv’s 31%. In general, voter turn-out is traditionally much lower than national elections.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Interior, the country’s highest voter turnout was seen in Arab cities, with voter turnout in Kfar Kara at 94%, Saknin, 78% and Hurfeish with 77%.
Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat delivered his victory speech in the wee hours of the morning. At 3:45 AM, he spoke at a Jerusalem club, telling supporters that “Jerusalem was victorious.”
Barkat promised that he “won’t leave any sector, any tribe behind” and that “there’s a lot more work to do” in the next five years of his term. Thanking residents for their votes in a tough re-election campaign, Barkat stated that “I want to hug all the residents of Jerusalem.”