Municipal Elections in Israel

Israelis turned out in substantial numbers to cast ballots in the municipal elections today. The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and by noon an estimated 20 percent of the more than 2.5 million registered voters had appeared at some 13,000 polling places throughout the country to choose mayors and local council members.

Early returns are not expected before midnight and results from the large cities will not be known before tomorrow morning. Under the Israeli system, mayors stand for election as individuals while town councils are selected from party lists. Laborite Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem, whose popularity is attested to by the fact that he has held that office for 18 years, is expected to win re-election by a large majority against his Likud opponent, Shlomo Tussia-Cohen.

But the outcome of the voting for the Jerusalem City Council is less clear cut. Voters who support Likud in national elections are expected to back that party in the council. There is a similar situation in Tel Aviv where the popular Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Likud is considered sure of re-election but may not carry Likud candidates for the city council with him.

Political pundits believe that the local council results are likely to reflect popular resentment over the economic situation, to the detriment of Likud. In that event, Labor is bound to trumpet its own successes and Likud’s expected reverses as an expression of the nation’s collective desire for a change of government.

Likud, of course, is expected to argue that-mid-tem elections usually reflect dissatisfaction with the party in power and are no indication of the outcome of national elections. The next Knesset elections are due in the fall of 1985, which is enough time, the government believes, to pull the country out of its present economic crisis.

SITUATION IN ARAB TOWNS IN ISRAEL

There is no balloting today in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jewish settlements in those territories do not have elected councils. Arab towns, where Jordanian or Egyptian law still applies, do not participate in Israeli municipal elections.

But in Arab towns in Israel proper, 357 lists are competing for the support of the 170,000 registered Arab voters. The number of Israeli Arabs registered to vote represents a 35 percent increase since the 1978 municipal elections.

About 65,000 Arabs are eligible to vote in East Jerusalem but no more than 20 percent are expected to cast ballots. Palestinian nationalist elements have urged the population to boycott the polls on grounds that to vote implied recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

The fact that the Knesset declared election day a workers holiday, combined with fine weather, drew thousands of Israeli families to the beaches and countryside. The Knesset’s decision was widely criticized by the Labor opposition which noted that the holiday would cost the economy some $300 million at a time of severe economic troubles.

President Chaim Herzog took no official position in the dispute. However, after casting his vote in Herzlia today he told reporters that he planned to work “and whoever wishes to draw conclusions is welcome to do so.”

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