Beit Shemesh election results may have been fraudulent
Thousands of people demonstrated in Beit Shemesh on Thursday, claiming Tuesday’s mayoral election - won by the ultra-Orthodox-backed incumbent by 900 votes over a secular challenger supported by most non-Haredi factions - was rigged.Here's more on the Jerusalem Post:
Protesters supporting Eli Cohen, who lost to Mayor Moshe Abutbul, said the election was fraught with forgery cases and violence. Cohen is considering appealing against the results.
“The difference is only 900 votes,” Cohen said at the demonstration. “Eight hundred and fifty ballots were disqualified and 200 forged IDs were found. … This must be investigated thoroughly.”
Cohen was referring to a police raid on an apartment in town on Tuesday, in which 200 ID cards were seized. The police are investigating a suspicion that the cards were intended for the purpose of voter fraud. Apparently the cards - which must be presented at the ballot box before voting - belong to people who are out of the country, or to ultra-Orthodox members from radical factions that boycott the elections.
“We don’t know if it’s 250 or 1,500 [fake IDs],” Cohen said. He said most of the 850 ballot tickets that were disqualified had been found in secular polling booths and were deliberately torn or scribbled on.
The secular, observant and religious residents fear that Abutbul’s reelection will turn Beit Shemesh into an ultra-Orthodox town, and that even the older neighborhoods will now become Haredi. Thursday night they intend to protest outside city hall.
“They rigged the elections, there’s no way Abutbul won more votes,” said Sari, 26, one of the demonstration’s organizers. “If Abutbul remains mayor, I’m leaving this place. How can we live with people who spit on us, throw stones?”
Speakers at the demonstration demanded to divide Beit Shemesh into two towns – a veteran, secular one and an ultra-Orthodox one.
“This is the beginning of a struggle that will continue until we get what we want,” one demonstrator said.
Eli Cohen, who lost his bid to unseat Beit Shemesh’s haredi mayor Moshe Abutbul on Tuesday, may take legal action due to allegations of voter fraud, sources within his campaign have told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.Someone in the Cohen crowd, however, said something dumb:
Cohen lost to Abutbul by fewer than a thousand votes in an election that some have described as less a political conflict than a religious war.
A line of hundreds of cars filled with Cohen supporters stretching for blocks wound its way around Beit Shemesh on Thursday evening, on its way to a rally in front of the municipality. When it passed through the Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef neighborhood, haredim try to stop traffic, and hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews lined the road, held back by the police.
As the haredim chanted “Moshe Abutbul” and played his campaign song over loudspeakers, one Cohen supporter announced over speakers bolted to his car roof that Beit Shemesh would “not be haredi” and that if the ultra- Orthodox wanted an exclusively religious area, they should go to Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood.Is this a joke? It's bad enough if you have that kind of extremism in Beit Shemesh. That doesn't mean it's acceptable here either. And there have been some scumbags who caused ruckuses over peanuts.
Cohen told the Post that to his sorrow, “we know about more than 850 ballots they declared invalid,” and “many people came and were told they had already voted.This is definitely alarming news, and should be investigated as best as possible. Abutbol should be ashamed of himself for turning the city into a cesspool of corruption.
“We have a legal team checking this,” he said, noting that he would act according to whatever evidence he manages to gather, either ceasing his efforts or pursuing legal action.
There have been calls and suggestions to divide the city as a way to put a halt to all this. It would be a shame if that had to happen, but so long as such awful people run the municipality, it may end up being that way.