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Thursday, December 26, 2013 

Court orders new elections for Beit Shemesh

Some sense has prevailed, as the court overseeing the case of election fraud for the sake of Moshe Abutbol in Beit Shemesh has ruled a rerun should take place:
In an unprecedented decision, the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday ordered new elections in Beit Shemesh and nullified the October election results due to massive and systematic fraud.

The bombshell decision is certain to set off a new round of conflict in a city mired by disputes between the supporters of pro-Haredi Mayor Moshe Abutbol and his challenger, representing a coalition of secular and religious Zionist residents, Eli Cohen. On December 18, the state, Abutbol and Cohen all filed their final legal pleadings with the Jerusalem District Court.

[...] It has implied that the significant arrests and stories suggesting that at least several hundred votes were fraudulent endangered the faith of Beit Shemesh residents enough that their democratic rights were being trampled and that a new election should be ordered.

In the written appeal, Weinstein said that the “severe deficiencies” in the elections, in light of Abutbul’s extremely close margin of victory, made it clear that the plan had been to impact the outcome of the elections.

He noted that even before the current, deeper investigation, 828 votes had been disqualified in the initial electoral count as problematic, showing that the volume of the fraud was considerable.

In his appeal to the court, Weinstein mentioned two police busts of centers for voter fraud. One center had been producing at least 62 fraudulent voter registrations (based on the number of identity cards recovered), and the other had been producing 99, of which 36 identity cards had already been used to cast fraudulent votes.

One suspected central player in the fraud said that he knew of a “target” goal of paying between 1,000 and 1,700 “enthusiasts” to vote in favor of Abutbul and his party’s slate, said Weinstein.

Another suspect recounted overhearing that another participant in the fraud possessed a bag holding 500 identity cards for illegal voting, Weinstein continued.

Cohen’s lawyer concurred with the state, but took an even more aggressive stance, stating that “math does not capture by itself the fraud committed and the damage to democracy in Beit Shemesh.”
Oh, they're right about that. I'm glad for this outcome, and we'll see how the election rerun goes from here. MK Dov Lipman and deputy minister Danny Danon also chimed in, telling how pleased they are too.

Update: predictably, Haredi leaders are reacting poorly about this, even using declarations like "racist"! If only that were as hilarious as it might sound, but no. On the other hand, rabbi Chaim Amsellem, who left the Shas party over their socialist leanings, has voiced his support for Eli Cohen.

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