Polls opened at 7 am Tuesday in 191 municipalities across the country, enabling 5,469,041 Israelis to exercise their democratic right to vote for a local government.
In Tel Aviv, incumbent Mayor Ron Huldai is running against Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz
(Meretz). If elected, Horowitz will be the first gay mayor in Israel. Huldai has been in office for the past 15 years. Horowitz's campaign managers believe Tel Aviv's residents have become fed up with the high housing prices and lack of parking spaces.
Jerusalem will be the scene of an interesting battle between incumbent mayor Nir Barkat
and challenger Moshe Leon, who suffered a major blow Monday when several leading Hasidic groups controlling thousands of votes announced that they were not endorsing any candidate.
During the campaign Barkat criticized Leon for not being a Jerusalemite - he only recently moved to the city from Givatayim - and for the support he received from Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Yisrael Beiteinu
leader Avigdor Lieberman.
"Moshe Leon is a resident of Givatayim, which is where he raised and educated his children and where he still pays taxes," Barkat wrote Monday to his supporters. "We Jerusalemites know very well why Lieberman and Deri are behind him and we won’t let this dirty deal win."
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai casts his vote (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
Leon told Channel 2 News on Monday that "It's time for a real revolution in Jerusalem that will improve the residents' quality of life," he said. "Tomorrow the truth will come out and it will turn out that I’ve won."
No major surprises are expected in Haifa, where incumbent Mayor Yona Yahav
is seeking a third term. However, challenger Yaakov Borowski, the former commander of the Northern District Police, believes he can drag Yahav into a second round of voting.
Polls conducted in Beit Shemesh predicted a tight race between Mayor Moshe Abutbul, representing Shas, and Eli Cohen, who worked as the director of a youth center in the city and served as a Jewish Agency emissary in Uruguay. Beit Shemesh has seen numerous conflicts between its haredi and secular residents over the city's character.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barket speaks with highschoolers on election day (Photo: Noam Dvir)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said Monday "municipal elections are important. You can decide who will continue the momentum, the progress and the development.
We are doing all that on a national level and we need strong, experienced and talented people to continue it on a local level. Those people are on the Likud's lists."
Likud is backing 65 mayoral candidates and 74 lists for local councils.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said at the Yesh Atid
faction meeting in the Knesset Monday: "I call on all citizens to get out of the house, vote and influence."
Yesh Atid has 28 city council candidates and 16 for mayor. The party stressed that half of its mayoral candidates were female and that 35% of its lists were led by women.
Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, told her Labor faction that Tuesday would be "a significant day in political life.
"Municipal elections are the daily expression of our ideological agenda and belief that the government is responsible for making sure we have a good home, food, culture and education for our children," she said.
Labor is backing 30 mayoral candidates and has 46 women in the first through third spots on city council lists.
Of the 689 mayoral candidates around the country, 70% are running for reelection.
There are over 248,000 people who will be voting for the first time on Tuesday. In addition, there will be 8,771 ballot boxes – 2,221 more than five years ago.
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