Beit Shemesh residents are waiting with bated breath Thursday for a ruling from the High Court, due later in the day, on whether or not new elections will be held for mayor in the coming months.
A Jerusalem court ruled last month that, due to possible fraud and irregularities, residents of the city would be voting for mayor again, after incumbent Moshe Abutbul won a second term by a mere few hundred votes. Abutbul is seeking to appeal that ruling. The Court on Thursday will rule on whether or not he will be able to do so.
On election day itself, police arrested several hareidi-religious men in possession of an estimated 200 fake ID cards, which they had apparently been using to cast fraudulent votes. In addition, several residents said after the elections that when they had come to vote, they had been wrongly told that they had already voted. Dozens of residents have filed police complaints.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was among those who called for new elections in wake of the fraud case. A police investigation of attempted fraud “shows a deliberate, systematic, organized” fraud attempt by dozens of people “who invested significant financial resources,” Weinstein wrote. The fraud was part of “a premeditated attempt to change the outcome of the elections,” he said.
On Tuesday, Weinstein urged the Court to turn down two petitions by Abutbul and his supporters to allow the appeal process to proceed. Weinstein reiterated arguments that the scope of the planned elections fraud revealed in Beit Shemesh on elections day was such that fraud may have determined the results of the close elections race. There was no legal precedent or basis for appealing an election in which fraud was an issue and which a court ordered to be run again, he added.
In his petitions, Abutbul has said that his appeal would be intended “to remove the blemish and moral cloud from over an entire community that has been made out to be ‘fraudsters,’ and has no legal means by which to defend its good name. This is an untrue stigma, and the High Court would do well by restoring things to the proper proportion, and bringing Beit Shemesh residents the peace and quiet they have been hoping for,” he wrote.