Secularist politician becomes Jerusalem's new mayor

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Secularist politician becomes Jerusalem's new mayor

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Israeli businessman and politician Nir Barkat has won Israel’s mayoral election, defeating ultra orthodox rabbi Meir Porush.

In an election, which was widely seen as a battle between Jerusalem’s secular and religious factions, Barkat took 52 percent of the vote.

The hard fought election campaign raised tensions between the two Israeli community’s, but Barkat said his victory was about unifying all residents of Jerusalem.

With Rabbi Porush taking 43 percent of the vote, Barkat’s victory ends 5 years of ultra orthodox mayoral rule over the city.

The new mayor opposes dividing Jerusalem as part of peace talks with the Palestinians and also says he wants to build extensively in the Arab dominated east of the city.

While most Palestinians boycotted the election, some thought it was important.

‘‘I happy about the results, because as a citizen of Jerusalem we do not want this city to be a religious city. We want it to be a city for everybody, so the rights of everybody are kept,’‘ said one resident.

Despite Barkat’s victory, the status of Jerusalem remains crucial to peace talks between Israeli’s and Palestinians, with both sides claiming the city as their capital.