In light of my previous post, Lion of Zion asked about the issues in the upcoming municipal elections.
We will cast two ballots this Tuesday, one for the local council (27 seats) and another for mayor. This year 159,000 residents have voting rights, beginning at age 17. The incumbent mayor, Itzik Ohayon, has overseen tremendous development in the city, but the other four candidates claim his candidacy has been a bastion of corruption and cronyism. When a mayor is involved in so many decisions about building, transportation, and development, there are going to be a lot of complaints, and worse.
According to Wikipedia, Petach Tikva’s population grows at an annual rate of 2.4%.
One supporter advising a storekeeper to vote for O’Hayon told me to vote for him too. “But of course you will,” he added, when he noticed my religious dress. It’s true that the National Religious Party (NRP or Mafdal in Hebrew) and Aguduah (Ashkenazi haredim) are supporting O’Hayon, who has close ties with the religious community.
When the NRP’s long-time leader resigned in a surprise move, “outsider” Moti Zaft was appointed to take over. This breathed new life into the campaign, leading most of the community’s rabbis, along with school principals from both the public and private religious schools, to support the party. However, a letter in our mailbox signed by “private school parents” objected to Zaft’s appointment.
The NRP’s main competition comes from a private individual who ran five years ago and got one seat. The NRP protested when representatives of this party known “Anachnu Maaminim bePetach Tikva” (We Believe in Petach Tikva) kept their positions in the governing body of the local NRP, despite campaigning against the party. Zaft said in an interview in the local religious paper that because of this he refused to sign a vote-exchange agreement (in which loose votes from both parties can be combined to give one of the parties an extra seat). But my son said that other parties also chose not to sign such agreements, because experts consider it poor strategy.
Every Friday and erev chag since Sukkot, cars blasted up and down the streets playing the theme song to the tune of “Anachnu maaminim bnei maaminim.” My seven-year-old received the above poster outside his school, and the NRP distributed Simchat Torah flags in synagogues. At a public religious school function the head of the parents’ committee reminded everyone to cast a ballot for the NRP.
A couple we know had agreed to support the leader of Anachnu Maaminim until learning that Moti Zaft, a close friend, would be running with the NRP. They found themselves in an uncomfortable position and unable to campaign for either party.
In national elections, the National Religious Party gets more votes from Petach Tikva than from any other city except for Jerusalem. The city has large secular and haredi populations as well.
As in the national political scene, the NRP has lost some power in Petach tikva. Despite the chain of daycare centers run by its women’s branch Emunah, young couples did not flock to the ballot boxes in the last election. At least they didn’t vote for the NRP, which received only three seats instead of the customary five. But a strong NRP is the only way to guarantee continuing support for religious Zionist education in the city.
Below are random snippets from the campaign.
- Shas is expected to do well.
- One of the liberal candidates said he would work to change the “status quo” regarding Shabbat observance. A representative of one of the religious parties responded that this was just a way to stir up trouble, as there is not enough secular power to make changes.
- Meretz party put up posters including a quote from a haredi newspaper, bragging that “Petach Tikva will become Bnei Brak.”
- One of the five mayoral candidates is the head of the local branch of Zehavi, an organization that works to get benefits for large families. Coincidentally, his last name is Zehavi. He was active in the new law guaranteeing free library cards for all.
- One issue mentioned by several campaigns is lack of space for synagogues.
- The city lacks a religious boys’ high school, as opposted to more expensive and exclusive Talmud-oriented yeshiva high schools. Many boys travel out of the city. Unfortunately a “plain” religious boys’ school can quickly become a receptacle for anyone having problems in the yeshiva high schools.
- Environmental issues are getting a lot of press.
- Smaller parties include a women’s rights party, an anti-haredi green party, a party to represent weaker neighborhoods, and one whose motto is simply to provide a “maaneh,” or response, for all residents, on every subject and with every problem.
Well, you asked.