Local Election at Ashdod Upsets Israeli Political Party Alignments

For the first time in Israel political history, an independent list, in a local election at Ashdod, surprised observers today by a successful bid for seats in the municipal council.

Political pundits said that, if the parties regarded the elections in Ashdod as a test case for future political changes, they would have to take the Ashdod results very seriously. The dominant Mapai lost one seat in the Ashdod council and will retain only three. The Religious parties will retain three seats also. Herut, which had expected two seats, and Achdut Avodah each held their one seat and the Liberals managed to win a seat.

The most striking outcome was the bid of former Mapai Mayor Robert Chaim’s independent list for which he was expelled from the party. The list won two seats and Mapai immediately said it was ready to cooperate in any coalition except with Herut and the dissidents, meaning Chaim’s independent list.

As a result of the shake-up it appeared that a Mapai-Religious Achdut coalition of seven seats might be formed with a religious power. However, there was also a possibility of a coalition of Independents with Liberals and Religious party members, excluding Mapai altogether.

Both Mapai and Herut officials blamed the dissident list for their losses and geared for a similar struggle in Beersheba in two weeks where, again, a dissident list headed by a former Mapai leader, David Hacham, will be entered.

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