The Shas party saw a significant uptick in the number of votes it received during municipal elections throughout the country, with an increase of 79,000 votes compared to the last elections. This was in spite of the fact that Shas had to compete against many party lists that tried to erode its power, none of whom ultimately passed the election threshold.
In the last municipal elections in 2008, Shas received 175,295 votes, while this year it received 253,738. In addition, two Shas representatives serve as mayors of their cities, Rabbi Moshe Abutbul in Beit Shemesh and Rabbi Ezra Gershi in Emmanuel.
By contrast, analysis of the turnout shows that the Jewish Home Party, headed by Naftali Bennett, and Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid, the big winners of the national elections a year ago, garnered significantly fewer votes and weakened their representation in local governments.
The Jewish Home party is highlighting its wins in Kiryat Malachi, Sderot and Lod, where the party’s candidates won the mayoralty. However, in the larger cities their turnout was dismal. In Yerushalayim, where there is the largest concentration of National Religious voters, Jewish Home won one seat on the city council, compared to garnering votes for more than three and a half seats in the last election.
Due to an internal dispute in the party, Bennett decided to go against its Yerushalayim branch and dropped the existing councilors from the list, replacing them with his own choices even though they were less-known among the party’s voters. In fact, the campaign signs in the city featured Jewish Home MKs and Ministers Bennett, Shaked and Ariel instead of those on the local list, leading to indifference on the part of the voters.
The breakaway party from Jewish Home, called Yerushalayim Meuchedet, garnered two seats.
Jewish Home failed in other large cities as well. They had expected three seats in Haifa and garnered only one, while the united Shas and United Torah Judaism list got four. In Tel Aviv, the Jewish Home party has one representative out of four on a joint list with Shas and UTJ.
In Petach Tikva they received three seats even though it was the first time there was only one National Religious list in the city. In Givat Shmuel, a national religious stronghold, they had hoped for five to six seats. At this time, they are hoping the final vote tally will garner them three, maintaining their strength from the last elections.
In Rechovot, another city with a large National Religious population, they garnered just two seats, after expecting five. A bright spot for the party was Ramat Gan, where it rose from two to three seats.
Beit Shemesh was a significant loss for Jewish Home. The party, in conjunction with Yesh Atid, ran a secular candidate for mayor there. Eli Cohen lost to Rabbi Moshe Abutbul, who was reelected to a second term.
The Yesh Atid party also saw defeats around the country. This cannot be compared to previous municipal elections because the party was not yet in existence. Analysts said that apparently, many in its voter base are angry at the economic measures Yair Lapid has taken as finance minister, which have affected the middle class, his prime constituency.
Yesh Atid candidates were put on the spot by voters wanting to know how they could vote for a party that has raised taxes, cut benefits and done little to ease the financial straits of the middle class — all of which were part of its party platform in general elections last year.
The candidates tried to distance themselves from the central party, among them Dan Lahat, who leads the party in Tel Aviv. He campaigned on local issues relevant to that city, and Lapid himself did not campaign with any of the party’s local municipality candidates.