Netanyahu-backed Jerusalem mayor ousted in first round

Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin failed to make it past first round of polling for Jerusalem mayor.

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pick for Jerusalem mayor has failed to make it past the first round of polling, local election results showed Wednesday.

None of the six candidates for mayor, all Jewish, won the 40 percent of votes required to be elected in the first round held on Tuesday, and a runoff between the top two will be held on November 13.

Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and who received the premier's endorsement, won only 20 percent of the vote.

Moshe Leon, another right-winger, garnered the most votes with 33 percent, according to official figures.

Leon has the backing of hawkish Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and of ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions.

While Netanyahu's candidate faltered, Israel's elections for mayors and councils are seen as largely local affairs with few implications for national politics.

The ultra-Orthodox, who make up some 10 percent of Israel's population, wield particular influence in Jerusalem, and the city has previously had an ultra-Orthodox mayor.

In relatively liberal Tel Aviv, Labour mayor Ron Huldai was elected to a fifth five-year term.

In Haifa, also a traditional Labour stronghold, the party's Einat Kalisch Rotem became the northern port city's first woman mayor and first female to head any of Israel's three largest cities.

Elections for mayors and councils are held every five years and have served as a springboard for politicians harbouring national ambitions.

For the first time in local elections, voting day was declared a national holiday in an effort to boost attendance.

Average turnout nationwide posted after polls closed on Tuesday night was 54 percent, compared to 50.9 percent in 2013.

Final official figures had not yet been published at midday Wednesday, partly due to a malfunction of the interior ministry website.