RAMALLAH, October 16 (JMCC) - Some 280,000 Jerusalem city residents will be excluded from voting in November city council elections due to new election rules, reports the Jerusalem Post
The rules were explicitly created to prevent Palestinian and Ultra-Orthodox voters from gaining seats in six of 14 districts, the mayor said in a press conference.
Six local councils will be elected under a new clause that requires voters to submit proof they have been active in community life for at least a year and have 50 signatures from residents supporting their effort to be classified as a “community activist.”
The complicated Clause 5.8 is a result of the fear that haredi or Hamas factions could overrun the local councils and start influencing city politics.
In neighborhoods that have mixed haredi and non-haredi populations, the worry is that the ultra-Orthodox are better organized than non-haredi residents and therefore will mobilize their vote much more efficiently.
In Arab neighborhoods, the city fears a repeat of last year’s elections in the Beit Hanina neighborhood. The municipality canceled the election there at the last minute after it received word that Hamas activists were organizing an effort to take over the local council.
Each community council is made up of nine elected members and six appointed members, and deals with local issues such as cultural events, education and ensuring that the municipality delivers services. The council seats are volunteer positions and are separate from the professional staff at the Matnas community centers.
Voter turnout for local council elections is very low – averaging last year around 17 percent This is partly because the idea of elections for community councils is new, and members of the public are unaware of the elections or dubious that they influence anything.
“Haredim, as a general rule, can organize much better and bring twice as many voters,” Barkat said during a press conference on Monday.
“Some neighborhoods asked us to preserve the ratios of the neighborhood’s residents [in the local councils] to ensure there is representation from every group.”
Clause 5.8 will be applied in the six community councils of Lev Ha’ir (Nahlaot, City Center, Musrara, Jewish Quarter), Beit Ross (Kiryat Moshe, Givat Shaul, Mordot Bayit Vegan and Givat Mordechai), Wadi Joz, A-Tur, Ramot and Romema. These six community councils represent approximately 280,000 residents, 170,000 of whom are voting age.s Barkat stressed that each neighborhood had uniquely built elections “suitable to its community.”