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Beit Shemesh Mayoral Candidate Promises Democracy at Conference

Eli Cohen and incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul face off in Beit Shemesh re-elections Tuesday. Cohen: I promise equality, democracy.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/10/2014, 2:19 PM

One last press conference for Eli Cohen
One last press conference for Eli Cohen
Stuart Schnee PR

Beit Shemesh mayoral candidate Eli Cohen held a final press conference before the second round of municipal elections Monday, along with leaders of the five political parties supporting him. 

Political and media consultant Akiva Weingarten also spoke at the conference, where he described the special preparations to prevent election fraud for the Tuesday's elections.

Weingarten explained that there are two primary types of fraud; illegal transfer of identity cards by people not voting to others who vote in their place, and a number of methods to stuff ballot boxes or cancel the votes of supporters of a particular candidate. During the last elections, these methods allegedly led to hundreds of votes being counted toward Cohen’s opponent, Moshe Abutbul.

This time, Weingarten has run training sessions for Cohen's campaign staff and a plethora of volunteers who will be working and observing at polling stations Tuesday, in an effort to stop fraudulent voting.

Eli Cohen recalled the dramatic circumstances leading to new elections and called on his supporters to vote in large numbers.

“Israeli democracy must be respected and that is why there are new elections," Cohen explained. "I will be a mayor of all the residents of Beit Shemesh and work so that all have equal opportunities here."

"We must improve the schools of hareidi children so they don’t study in temporary caravans and ensure that all young couples, haredi and non-hareidi, have the same chance to buy homes here and build their families," he added.

Cohen also condemned growing personal attacks on him, especially from Abutbul's supporters.  

“Some have questioned my Jewishness and others have spread despicable lies about me," he noted. "The best answer to this is democracy, the rule of law and a large voter turnout.”

Finally, Cohen called on the IDF to ensure that commanders know they are obligated to allow soldiers to leave their bases and return to Beit Shemesh to vote. With over 1,500 soldiers voters, this group is vital to a Cohen victory.

The battle between Cohen and Abutbul has been portrayed by many as a battle for the future of Beit Shemesh; specifically, whether the city will maintain a non-hareidi majority or will become a primarily hareidi city. Jewish Home party head Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has been among those calling the second round of elections the “last chance” for the city.

Abutbul has accused his opponents of overestimating the prevalence of fraud in the original vote due to their upset over the fact that a hareidi candidate won the election. He declared last month that he believes he will easily win the second elections.