Incumbent Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was able to secure a second term in office on Tuesday, defeating rival Moshe Lion after a stormy election campaign. As the final results came in, around 2 a.m. Wednesday, the vote split 51.14 percent for Barkat and 45.34% for Lion.
Voter turnout in the capital was low at 35.9%, adding tension to the already dramatic campaign, during which polls predicted a very tight race. The low number of voters, coupled with the fact that voter turnout in the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods was higher than in secular neighborhoods, means that Barkat effectively won the mayoral race by only a narrow margin.
Wednesday's tally counted 106,000 votes for Barkat, 94,200 votes for Lion and 10,000 invalid ballots.
Both campaigns filed police complaints alleging election tampering by their rivals: Barkat's staff claimed that Lion's people had attempted to disrupt the voting process in the city's Sanhedria neighborhood, while Lion's staff claimed that Barkat's people had removed ballots with Lion's name from a voting station in Ussishkin Street.
"Jerusalem has won!" Barkat said in his victory speech.
"These elections have seen a difficult and complex campaign and I would like to thank the people of Jerusalem for giving me a mandate for another five years.
"Over the past five years we have introduced a new vision and we have proved that the city's true potential was untapped. We have laid the groundwork to further advance Jerusalem in this coming term. For me, Jerusalem is a life's mission. Over a decade ago, my wife and I decided to focus on how to turn Jerusalem into a more attractive place, and now we have proved that it can be done.
"We all still have much work to do and now it is time for us to work together and put our differences aside. This is no time for fighting. I call on all the sectors in Jerusalem to look to the future. We have to do that for Jerusalem to thrive."
Lion, who was endorsed by Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri and Yisrael Beytenu's leader Avigdor Lieberman, left his campaign headquarters shortly after the results were in. In a short concession speech, he thanked his supporters, saying, "My intentions were honest and good and I hope that in his next term, the mayor will be a little more considerate of the residents." Lion did not offer Barkat his congratulations over the win.
"I think that the fact that Moshe was able to garner 40% of the public's support in such a short time is a great accomplishment," Lieberman was quoted as saying by the Israel National News website. "It is the national camp's duty to present a serious alternative. ... You don't go into battle knowing whether or not you're going to win. You have to know how to win and you have to know how to lose. I'm sure Moshe will continue to contribute to Jerusalem in whatever he does next."
President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu each voted in the Jerusalem municipal election.
"These elections are important nationwide, but they are especially important here, in Jerusalem. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that votes with ballots, not bombs. Our democratic process is admirable," Peres said. He urged the public to vote, saying, "I have done my duty -- now it's your turn."
Netanyahu and his wife Sara voted in Jerusalem just a few hours prior to the prime minister's departure for Rome, where he will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu, who throughout the election campaign refrained from endorsing any particular candidate, would not tell reporters for whom he voted.