JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The race for mayor of Jerusalem was too close to call late on Tuesday and could require a runoff after no single candidate won enough votes to clinch victory, Israeli media reported.
Israel held municipal elections nationwide, with much attention on the race in Jerusalem, where the country’s religious and political divides are often amplified.
Secular candidate and former Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch and Moshe Lion, who won support from ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, emerged as front-runners, beating out two other leading contenders, and will likely face off in a second round, according to Israel’s Channel 13 and other leading news outlets.
Official results may only come on Wednesday morning.
The incumbent mayor, Nir Barkat, is not seeking re-election.
Fuelled by high birthrates, the ultra-Orthodox make up 10 percent of Israel’s majority Jews, and more than triple that – 36 percent – in Jerusalem.
Twenty-one percent of Jerusalem Jews are secular, while 43 percent are not ultra-Orthodox but religiously traditional.
Palestinians, who make up a third of Jerusalem’s population, are mostly boycotting the election, as they have done for decades, in protest at Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, seized in the 1967 war.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Peter Cooney)