Israeli Election Coverage: 2018 Municipal Elections, Round 1

In light of Israel’s municipal elections, I’ve decided to produce a series on Israeli politics. It is available as a video below, but if you can’t/don’t want to watch, I’ve written down some bullet points for discussion.

Israeli municipal elections were held on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. Occurring every five years, Israelis in every city, town, and regional council1 submit two ballots: one for mayor on an American-style first-past-the-post system, and one for their preferred party list in the local council much as is done for the Knesset. This is significant because mayorships in Israel are perhaps the most significant stepping stone to national office.

This year, municipal elections were proclaimed a national holiday for the first time, as has always been done in national elections. Service and transportation businesses remained open but white-collar and government positions had a full day off. Additionally, a new rule was instituted in which elections would go to a second round on November 13 if no candidate for mayor received at least 40% of the vote. Based on Tuesday’s results, 49 cities will have a second round of voting, though it will not be a national holiday.

Here are some more notable facts about this elections:

  • Israel now has 11 women mayors, possibly more pending the results of Round 2. If that sounds like oddly few to you, it did to me as well, considering that more than twice as many women currently sit in the Knesset despite that body having fewer seats than the total number of mayors. I would speculate that the first-past-the-post system is a major hindrance.
  • Haifa became the largest Israeli city to elect a woman mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem. Despite running on the “Life in Haifa” list, both she and the defeated incumbent are members of the center-left Zionist Union. Despite her liberal leanings, Kalisch-Rotem– and liberal candidates nationwide– received high levels of support from those ultra-orthodox communities living within predominantly secular cities.
  • Despite polls indicating a close race and potential runoff between 20-year incumbent mayor Ron Huldai and councilman Assaf Zamir, Huldai cruised to re-election with 46.6% of the vote to Zamir’s 34.2%.
  • In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s preferred choice for Mayor, Ze’ev Elkin, came in a distant third place, a major disappointment for the Premier. Instead, the capital’s second round will be between ultra-orthodox champion Moshe Lion and secular coalition candidate Ofer Berkovitch.
  • Although voter participation was slightly up from 2013’s municipal elections, it was disproportionately higher among wealthier people, Arabs, rural residents, and inhabitants of the northern and southern periphery. This pattern is a major boost to left-wing parties and candidates, though this is nothing new.

My video/article on security policy is still coming, but has been delayed from a combination of graphics issues and everyday life. I will additionally give a fuller report after the November 13 round of elections. If you liked this video, feel free to share it. If you have any suggestions or questions, please offer them in the comments. And as in all other threads, respect the site guidelines and do not threaten any Mayors McSquirrel.