Monday, November 10, 2008

Jerusalem Elections for Dummies - 1

So here's the story. From 1965 all the way until 1993, Teddy Kollek got re-elected every time the law said he had to run, and no-one even remembers who the other fellows were. (Nor did anyone recognize them at the time). This in spite of Kollek's being from Labor, while Jerusalem regularly voted Likud in the national elections. Kollek was a great fundraiser and a good mayor, and no-one cared which party he came from.

In 1992 Kollek was in his 80s and the voters felt it was enough. He had this habit of dozing off in meetings and public events, and we felt he should call it a day (well: call it a century). We were wrong, of course, and he could easily have functioned for at least one additional term, but there you have it.

Olmert got elected that time, by combining the Likud voters with the ultra-orthodox, the Haredis. Tho he wasn't a very good mayor, he got elected again in 1998 with the same coalition. Then, sometime before the end of his 2nd term he left and went to join the government, a move that brought him first to the top, then probably all the way to the bottom. That's the way it is in life, we often don't know when to stop grabbing for more. On his way out he vacated his seat to Uri Lupolianski, otherwise known as Lupo.

Lupo is an interesting fellow. A haredi by choice, not by birth, he invented, set up, and ran the Yad Sarah organization, a truly magnificent place that gives a wide range of para-medical assistance to anybody who needs it, free of cost, and is itself staffed by thousands of volunteers. In the ramp-up to the municipal elections of 2003 the haredi apparently said to themselves that if they were destined to have a secular mayor, why not have one of their own. He was already seated at the right table in City Hall, thanks to Olmert's political ambitions, so all that remained was to elect him. Not hard to do since the haredi community votes early and often, all 105% of them, the Arabs hardly vote at all, and the rest of the populace loves to kvetch and move elsewhere, but can't be bothered to vote if Kollek isn't running (in 2003 he was above 90, I think, and no longer a viable candidate even in his own eyes).

Nir Barkat, the hi-tech multimillionaire, ran in 2003, but no-one knew where he came from nor why he wanted the job, so his potential voters lifted their noses and didn't vote.

This time, as I've already written, we've got three candidates. The poll stations open in 10 hours, and no-one I know has the faintest idea who's going to win. But it has been interesting to see that all three candidates have broken the old molds. Porush, the haredi fellow, is apparently far too independent-minded for some of the rabbis (they're the ones who decide who their people vote for), so some of them may not allow their people to vote for him. On the other hand, he has been campaigning vigorously outside the haredi neighborhoods, trying to garner non-haredi votes; apparently he has partially succeeded. Barkat, the secular candidate, has scrupulously refrained from saying anything even remotely negative about the haredi community, and though he's unlikely to pick up any of their votes, it's conceivable some of them may decide not to vote at all, which is tantamount to voting for him. Gaydamek, the enigmatic Russian billionaire from France is the only one who has been using haredi terminology on some of his campaign posters, and he's the first Jewish candidate ever to appeal, perhaps even successfully, to the third or so of voters who are Palestinians; apparently they've decided that since he doesn't know Hebrew he isn't Jewish so they can vote for him.

The national religious who make up a sizable chink of the electorate are split, and their representatives and rabbis have sent out calls in the past weeks to vote for this one, no that one, no this one and forget we said that one, no we never said that, why aren't you listening more carefully? Since unlike the haredi most of them make up their own minds, no-one knows what they're going to do tomorrow. Cheers!

PS. The Washington Post has a reasonable summary of all this here. Well, sort of reasonable.

1 comment:

Yaniv said...

Thanks, Yaacov -- this is informative _and_ entertaining.