Last updated: 11 February, 2014

Israel court orders election re-run in two cities

Israel’s top court ordered Tuesday new municipal elections in the country’s largest Arab city after a close vote there and in another city rife with religious tensions after fraud suspicions.

The High Court decision, seen by AFP, said residents of the northern city of Nazareth must vote again after incumbent mayor Ramez Jaraiseh beat Ali Salem by only nine votes in an October poll.

The court also ordered new elections in Beit Shemesh, after alleged wide-scale fraud lead to the reelection of Mayor Moshe Abutbul, a member of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

The interior ministry said both elections would take place on March 11.

Known as the capital of the northern Galilee region, Nazareth has a population of 82,000, 65 percent of which is Muslim and the rest Christian.

Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, is home to more than 80,000 people, most of them Orthodox Jews. It won headlines last year over clashes following attempts by some ultra-Orthodox men to impose a regime of strict gender segregation.

After the October election, police discovered a network of fake identification cards used to ensure Abutbul’s victory over secular candidate Eli Cohen.