The Election is Over, Let the Election Begin

Posted: November 13th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: elections | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The municipal elections are over, and there were a few interesting results, including surprising losses for some of Israel’s longest serving mayors: Yaakov Turner in Beer Sheva, Meir Nitzan in Rishon Le’tzion, and Zvi Zilker in Ashdod.

In Jerusalem, secular businessman Nir Barkat got the upper hand in his battle against Orthodox MK Menachem Porush. This doesn’t mean that Jerusalem is getting more secular. Porush lost because he failed to win the support of some important orthodox groups, most notably the Hasidics of Gur.

Both candidates made some wild declarations in an attempt to win the right-wing vote, promising to “keep the city united forever” or “build 10,000 homes in [Palestinian] east Jerusalem.” While the final say in matters like these belongs to the government, still let us hope Barkat wont try too hard to keep his promises.

In Tel Aviv, one third of the votes went to Dov Khenin, the Communist MK who presented the until-recently popular mayor Ron Huldai with a surprising challenge. Huldai won the election with almost fifty percent of the vote, but Khenin’s short campaign, which was based entirely on volunteers with no advertising or a PR services, was a tremendous success. His party, “Ir Lekulanu” (A city for all of us), won more votes than any other party, including Huldai’s “Tel Aviv One”. Both parties will get 5 seats each in the city council (out of a total 31).

Khenin’s opponents tried to run a standard negative campaign against him, with the major issue being a rumore spread the week prior to the election (mostly by Labor people) that in the past he didn’t stand up for the national anthem, “Hatikva”. After he was shown on TV standing during an official ceremony, it was claimed that he didn’t sing the anthem. As some of his supportes said, when it will be proved that he did actually utter the words of “Htikva”, Khenin will be accused of not singing in tune.

But the important issue is that this accusation didn’t prevent Khenin from getting twenty time the votes his party, “Hadash”, usually gets in Tel Aviv. Most of all, I think that Khenin’s candidacy showed the need for a new political platform for the Israeli left: one that combines environmental and social issues, and most important, is not part of the old Liberal/Conservative and Zionist/Non Zionist dichotomy. As it turned out, many young people in Tel Aviv are tired of the old political discourse.

Exactly as I predicted here, Huldai won the election by 15 points. I got the Jerusalem election all wrong though. I never believed so many Hassidic will prefer a secular candidate over an ultra-orthodox for political reasons – and they did, and that so many liberal and centrist seculars will vote for a right-wing candidate just because he is NOT orthodox – they also did. Draw your own conclusions about both groups.

Earlier this week I wrote that this election will be a good bellwether for the Green Party’s potential in the general election, to be held on February 10th. The party ran for 30 municipalities, and got 47 members elected to 22 councils. As predicted, they lost ground in Tel Aviv to Dov Khenin’s “Ir Lekulanu”.

Around 100,000 people voted for the Green party, which equals 2-3 MKs in the general election – exactly what the polls give them today. The party’s major problem is that most of the environmental organizations in Israel don’t support them, and that their leader, Pe’er Visner, is highly unpopular among most activists. It’s very likely that due to this split in the environmental movement, non of the Greens will enter the Knesset, as all sides will prefer to lose than to see the other side win. We will keep an eye on this story in the weeks to come.

One Comment on “The Election is Over, Let the Election Begin”

  1. 1 Promised Land » Blog Archive » It Could Get Even Worst said at 8:19 pm on November 27th, 2008:

    [...] are several parties on the left which are at danger: First, there is the Green party. As I wrote here before, due to the split in the environmental movement, there might be two “green” [...]