Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5764 - October 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Facts about the Municipal Elections
by E. Rauchberger

Some 600 candidates vied for 3.8 million votes in 156 different local authorities for the post of authority head (which in cities is called "mayor") for the next five years. About one-third of them were women. Twenty-two thousand five hundred candidates on 1,600 lists vied for positions on the councils.

The polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and closed at 10:00 p.m. This was the second time Election Day was not a national holiday. At schools classes were held as usual except for approximately 1,000 schools that were used as polling places. It was also the first election in which 17-year-olds voted, adding a constituency of 148,000 eligible voters.

Voters cast two voting slips, one for authority head and one for the list vying for spots on the council. At certain voting places, such as Bnei Brak, there was only one candidate for the post of council head and residents voted either for or against him using a white slip. In contrast, in Kfar Saba voters faced an array of 9 different mayoral candidates.

According to a Dachaf opinion poll commissioned by Yediot Achronot before the elections 57 percent of respondents said they were sure they would go to the polls to vote, 36 percent planned not to go and 7 percent were undecided. The Center for Local Government forecast a low turnout rate of just 35 percent. During the previous municipal elections the average voter turnout rate across the country was just 40 percent.

Five thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight polling places were set up around the country. The elections arrangements cost NIS 350 million. Due to the ongoing strike at the Interior Ministry many eligible voters do not have a national ID card, but valid passports and driver's licenses bearing a photograph were also accepted. The final election results will be announced during the course of Wednesday (after we go to press).

Shinui vied for local authorities for the first time in an attempt to translate its success in the Knesset elections into seats on the local level as well. Yisrael Beiteinu is also trying to strengthen its power across the country.

Nine percent of the country's citizens did not participate in the elections because elections were already held in their locations on a different date. This includes the residents of Jerusalem, Haifa and Or Akiva where elections were held last June. Only 156 of the country's 266 local authorities held elections. The number of council members was based on the number of residents, ranging from 5 to 31. In just three authorities there was no race for the post of authority head.

Until 1978, authority heads were selected by the council members but since then they have been chosen by direct vote of the citizens. Until 1998 a mayor could also serve as a Knesset Member. Due to the change in the law the mayors of Jerusalem (Ehud Olmert), Haifa (Amram Mitzna) and Or Akiva (Yaakov Edri) were forced to resign from their posts to remain in the Knesset and therefore local elections were held in June in these three cities. The voter turnout rate then was extremely low: 38 percent in Jerusalem and just 36 percent in Haifa.

Mayors' salaries range from NIS 26,880 to 30,574 with a total of eight pay scale ratings depending on the size of the city. A mayor is entitled to a private car at a cost of NIS 155,000. Deputy mayors' salaries ranged from NIS 21,053 to 25,303.

Bnei Brak has 84,377 eligible voters. One hundred and twenty- six polling places were set up throughout the city. Only one candidate ran for mayor, but eight lists vied for 23 city council seats, two fewer than the outgoing city council. Therefore a smaller number of voters could get their candidate a seat on the city council. The polling places were run by 126 poll secretaries who underwent special training. The polls were manned by 378 poll observers. Every poll had a chairman, deputy chairman and member appointed by the Elections Committee.

During the Knesset elections held in Shevat the voting distribution in Bnei Brak was as follows: United Torah Jewry got 32,346 votes, Shas received 12,443 votes, Likud got 5,463 votes, the Mafdal got 3,275 votes, Labor got 1,383 votes, Am Echad (which is now running together with Labor) got 314 votes, Shinui got 1,457 votes, and HaIchud HaLeumi got 1,249 votes.


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