Jerusalem (Nov. 2)
After serving nearly three decades as Jerusalem’s mayor, Teddy Kollek has apparently lost his seventh bid for the post to the Likud party’s Ehud Olmert.
The 82-year-old Kollek, mayor here since 1965, headed the Labor-affiliated “One Jerusalem” faction.
His loss to Olmert was announced by Israel Television, which based its prediction on exit polls it had conducted.
The prediction was announced at 10 p.m. Tuesday, as voting stations closed here and around the country, concluding the day’s countrywide municipal elections.
In Tel Aviv, exit polls indicated the mayor’s race between Likud’s Ronni Milo and Labor’s Avigdor Kahalani was too close to call. Both candidates were waiting nervously Tuesday night for the official results.
In Haifa, Labor’s Amram Mitzna won the mayoral race. And in Beersheba, Yitzhak Rager of Likud was the winner. Neither result came as a surprise to political observers.
Here in Jerusalem, the exit poll indicated that Olmert had garnered 55 percent of the vote. Kollek received 41 percent, with the remaining votes going to a candidate fielded by the fervently Orthodox Shas party.
Olmert, 48, was supported by the National Religious Party and the United Torah Judaism Front, whose candidate withdrew from the race Monday night.
Tourism Minister Uzi Baram, a longtime Labor Party politician, said it was clear Kollek would lose once those two religious parties had thrown their support to Olmert.
MANY CHOSE TO STAY HOME
All in all Tuesday, Jerusalemites appear to have greeted the mayoral election with less enthusiasm than in previous years.
Asked to choose between Kollek and Olmert, many people chose to stay home. Bad weather — and apathy — kept many of the city’s 379,000 registered voters away from the polls.
Among those who did vote, in polling stations in both eastern and western Jerusalem, few expressed enthusiasm for either candidate.
“No one can figure out who to vote for,” said a young computer programmer, who was trying to account for the poor voter turnout.
“Kollek ran the worst campaign of his life, while Olmert’s was very professional,” he said. “On the other hand, everyone is familiar with Teddy, but Olmert is an unknown.”
“I voted for Teddy, but mostly for reasons of nostalgia,” a nursery school teacher said as she was leaving a voting station in the neighborhood of Baka. “He’s done a good job in the past, and I think he’ll be better than Olmert.”
Shoshana, an Orthodox woman from the Katamon neighborhood, said she voted for Olmert “because Teddy is no friend of religious people. He seems to go out of his way to alienate the haredim and bends over backwards for the Arabs.”
Yossi, 18, a first-time voter, expressed disappointment in the choice of candidates.
“Teddy was great in his prime, but he’s too old now. I hear that he’s not really running the city, anyway,” he said.
“And Olmert’s campaign was really sleazy and underhanded, and I don’t really want a guy like that for our next mayor. In the end, I voted for Olmert by default,” said Yossi.
There were those, however, who fully supported the respective candidates.
Hammad, an Arab from the eastern Jerusalem village of Isawiya, said he came out to vote despite a call by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat asking Arabs to boycott the elections.
“I heard something about us not voting, but I thought it was a mistake,” said Hammad, a grocery store clerk. “It’s important for Arabs to vote for Kollek because Olmert is a right-winger. I’ve voted for Kollek in the past and that’s how I voted this year, too.”
Among those polled informally, it was Sarit, a college student, who expressed the majority opinion. “There’s no one to vote for,” she said with a shrug, “so I didn’t vote.”