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Israeli Municipal Elections Set

About 2.2 million Israelis are expected to vote in 150 municipal elections throughout Israel next Tuesday, a third of them in Arab towns, Interior Ministry officials said today. There are 53,300 eligible voters in East Jerusalem but officials said that no more than 2000 are expected to cast ballots. In the past, East Jerusalem Arabs have boycotted the elections.

Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem is expected to win an easy victory. This year’s municipal elections will be the first in which separate ballots will be cast for mayoral candidates and candidates for town councils. A mayor will require at least 40 percent of the votes to be elected or face a run-off election.

Earlier this week, coalition MKs closed ranks to defeat a last-minute attempt by opposition factions to overturn a recently enacted law declaring the municipal elections a national holiday. The Knesset’s Procedures Committee voted II-9 not to clear the measure for debate on the floor despite severe pressure from the business community.

The situation found the Likud-led coalition upholding a law that adds a paid holiday for the work force, against the Labor Alignment, Sheli and Civil Rights Movement and other pro-labor factions that sided with the Manufacturers Association against the measure.

The opponents argued that Israel’s strained economy could not afford the loss of an estimated IL 750 million in gross national product that the one-day holiday would entail. The coalition insisted that the holiday is required to ensure maximum voter turnout.

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