An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks on a street covered with election campaign leaflets in Jerusalem on October 21, 2013
An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks on a street covered with election campaign leaflets in Jerusalem on October 21, 2013 © Menahem Kahana - AFP
An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man walks on a street covered with election campaign leaflets in Jerusalem on October 21, 2013
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Delphine Matthieussent, AFP
Last updated: October 23, 2013

Whiff of scandal could hamper Israeli local election

Israelis were Tuesday voting in municipal elections in a poll expected to be shunned by much of the public who see local authorities as tainted by corruption.

The mayors of Israel's major cities were returned to office on Wednesday after municipal elections marked by a low turnout of voters who see local authorities as tainted by corruption.

In Jerusalem, Nir Barkat beat Moshe Leon, who had the backing of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party Shas as well as that of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman.

Ron Huldai retained his position as mayor of Tel Aviv in Tuesday's election, and Haifa mayor Yona Yahav won another five-year term.

Only two women won positions as mayors or heads of local councils out of the 191 locales, in coastal city Netanya and in Ganei Tikva, a small town east of Tel Aviv.

And three mayors who have been indicted on various corruption charges were re-elected, after the supreme court disqualified them from their previous mayoral posts but ruled they could run for new terms.

The interior ministry said early Wednesday it was still calculating voter turnout but estimates put the number of Israelis who took part at less than 50 percent.

A ministry official told military radio that final results could take as long as Thursday night, since soldiers' ballots from bases nationwide were still being collected and counted.

Top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily's front page headline read "Indifferent", saying that nearly one in every two Israelis did not bother to vote.

Turnout figures are traditionally low in Israeli local elections, with only 51.85 percent participating in the last vote in 2008.

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