Polling stations closed at 10 p.m. in Israel’s municipal elections, and workers began the process of counting the votes. Final results are expected to be in by Wednesday morning.
Low voter turnout in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv had incumbents Nir Barkat and Ron Huldai concerned. The overall turnout rate in Jerusalem was 32%; combined with high turnout in hareidi-religious neighborhoods, where many support Barkat’s rival Moshe Leon, the low general turnout is expected to hurt his chances of reelection.
There was cautious optimism in Barkat’s camp as voters in heavily secular neighborhoods of the capital increased their turnout in the last hours before polls closed. However, Leon’s supporters were encouraged by the figures too, pointing out that the last-minute turnout was seen primarily in lower-income neighborhoods, where, they say, Barkat has fewer supporters.
Leon, who has support from the Shas party, began his day with a trip to the gravesite of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder and long-time spiritual leader of Shas.
In Tel Aviv, just 22% of eligible voters cast a ballot. The low turnout is expected to serve Huldai’s primary opponent, MK Nitzan Horowitz of the far-left Meretz party.
“The race is close, the numbers are close – everything is open,” Horowitz said Tuesday. “If those who support change come vote – we will win.”
Turnout was slightly higher in Haifa going into the afternoon. An exit poll conducted by Haifa Radio predicted a win for incumbent candidate Yona Yahav, with roughly 44% of the vote compared to 32% for second-place candidate Yaakov Borovsky. A different poll gave Yahav 36% to 26% for Borovsky.
Yahav’s supporters were seen celebrating the expected victory Tuesday night shortly after polls closed, although official results will not be available for several hours.
Turnout was high in Beit Shemesh, where hareidi-religious incumbent Moshe Abutbul is facing multiple challengers. The city was also the site of the most serious elections-related disturbance Tuesday as police nabbed 250 fake ID cards. Eight people were arrested in connection to the forgery.
Turnout rates were highest in hareidi-religious and Arab cities, including Bnei Brak, Elad, Kfar Kana and Segev Shalom.