JERUSALEM – Jerusalem elected its first ultra-Orthodox (search) mayor while the left-leaning city of Haifa gave the nod to a former Labor member of parliament running for a reformist, secular party, according to a final results Wednesday.
In the Jerusalem voting Tuesday, acting mayor Uri Lupolianski (search) easily beat millionaire businessman Nir Barkat, capitalizing on a high turnout in the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, and relative apathy among its secular population.
The turnout of 42 percent reflected a near-total boycott by East Jerusalem Arabs, who represent one-third of Jerusalem residents, but remain largely outside its political framework.
Lupolianski received 52 percent of the vote, compared to 42 percent for Barkat. Four other candidates split the remaining 6 percent.
Speaking to supporters Wednesday, Lupolianski pledged to maintain the city's delicate secular-religious balance and work on behalf of all its residents.
Secular residents have been worried that Lupolianski would divert large portions of the city's budget to his impoverished constituents, most of whom choose a life of Torah study over work and depend on government welfare and charity for subsistence.
They have also been worried that he would try to impose religious restrictions on the city, closing down the few shops and restaurants that are open on the Jewish Sabbath, for example.
In the Haifa voting, former Labor parliament member Yona Yahav (search) beat Likud candidate Shmuel Arad by nine percentage points. Yahav ran under the banner of the Shinui party, which advocates trimming the power of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Yahav's victory means that for the first time in 55 years, Haifa will not have a Labor party mayor. The Labor candidate, Aliza Shenhar, dropped out of the race last week following poor poll results.
Both the Jerusalem and Haifa elections were called to replace mayors who resigned to run for parliament in Israel's general election in January. Former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert (search) of the Likud is now serving as Sharon's vice-premier, while Amram Mitzna (search) of Haifa led the Labor party to its worst drubbing in Israel's 55-year history.