Gap clos­ing in race for Jerusalem mayor

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY SI­MON GRIVER JERUSALEM

AS THE cam­paign for Jerusalem mayor ap­proaches the Novem­ber 11 elec­tion date, strictly Or­tho­dox can­di­date Rabbi Meir Porush ap­pears to be clos­ing the gap on sec­u­lar fron­trun­ner Nir Barkat.

In a poll pub­lished by the Da­haf In­sti­tute, Rabbi Porush, a United To­rah Ju­daism MK, won 36 per cent of the vote com­pared to 48 per cent for Mr Barkat’s in­de­pen­dent Jerusalem Will Suc­ceed party.

Rus­sian-Is­raeli bil­lion­aire Arkady Gay­damak polled 6 per cent and Dan Biron of the Green Leaf party, which wants to le­galise mar­i­juana, failed to reach even 1 per cent.

Re­mark­ably, Rabbi Porush, who was 20 per cent be­hind Mr Barkat ear­lier this month, is pick­ing up left-wing sup­port as Mr Barkat is seen to have moved fur­ther to the right to en­sure victory. Mr Barkat, a for­mer high-tech busi­ness­man who re­tired af­ter his 2003 de­feat to in­cum­bent mayor Uri Lupo­lian­ski to de­vote him­self full-time to the un­paid po­si­tion of the leader of the op­po­si­tion in the Jerusalem Coun­cil, re­cently con­cluded a deal with Avig­dor Lieber­man of the right-wing Yis­rael Beit­enu party. He shocked many sup­port­ers by say­ing: “Lieber­man and I share the same world view, a strong Is­rael with a strong Jerusalem at its core.”

The Na­tional Re­li­gious Party is yet to en­dorse a can­di­date. But most of the city’s na­tional re­li­gious res­i­dents, who form about 20 per cent of vot­ers, are sup­port­ing Mr Barkat, who has pledged to ac­cel­er­ate construction in East Jerusalem.

How­ever, Mr Gay­damak could yet prove to be a joker in the pack. He spent the first three weeks of his cam­paign in Rus­sia, shoring up his crum­bling busi­ness em­pire, and re­turned last week­end to make a be­lated bid for victory by court­ing the Arab vote. The city’s Arab res­i­dents, who com­prise about 30 per cent of the elec­torate, have in the past boy­cotted the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

Mr Gay­damak can show some re­sults. Hanna Sin­iora, the in­flu­en­tial Pales­tinian jour­nal­ist, wrote in the east Jerusalem daily Al Quds, urg­ing the city’s Pales­tini­ans to vote for Mr Gay­damak “to pre­vent the de­struc­tion of homes and con­fis­ca­tion of Pales­tinian prop­erty”.

Candidates to run the Holy City are com­pet­ing for the re­li­gious vote

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