Haifa’s residents have elected the first woman mayor ever to lead any of Israel’s three biggest cities, after Labour candidate Einat Kalisch Rotem pulled off a surprise win to beat the incumbent Yona Yahav.
In a major upset, Rotem romped home with 56 percent to Yahav’s 38 percent, leaving the defeated three-term mayor blaming a dirty tricks campaign.
“They shut down my phone, I’m under a crazy cyber-attack,” 15-year post-holder Yahav told Israeli news site Walla. “They’re stealing our [ballot] slips.” Rotem also said ballot slips with her name on it had gone missing.
Her election came after she was dramatically disqualified from running by the Interior Ministry and the Haifa District Court just days before the race, only to be reinstated by the High Court of Justice at the eleventh hour.
The Haifa antics were overshadowed by the sight of armed Israeli security services clearing hundreds of Druze protesters from a polling station in Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, as they sought to block people from voting. With some flying Syrian flags, the protesters chanted: “The Golan’s identity is Arab and Syrian.”
This week’s municipal elections were the first to be held on a national holiday, following a new law encouraging people to vote. Turnout across the country was a little more than 50 percent.
Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast, focusing on Pittsburgh: