Beit Shemesh - Innovative Democracy
The often vicious and degrading conflicts during the election campaigns for the Chief Rabbia, thankfully now over (Rabbi David Lau, Ashkenazi, and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Sephardi, won), increase the relevance of efforts to reduce the downside of an active democracy.
Negative campaigning invariably tarnishes both political opponents (the target) and allies (collateral damage). And vote-splitting infighting can result in handing political victory and power to a minority of voters.
Here in Beit Shemesh, a town not known for clean politics, there has been some progress and innovation in reducing destructive in-fighting.
The municipal election are looming up in November, and the mayor and city council are all up for election.
Moshe Abutbul is the incumbent mayor, and leader of the three-man Shas list.
Mindful of the damage which can be caused by multiple competing candidates, Abutbul's main opponents have formed a coalition. This coalition, which defines itself as "Zionist" ('pluralistic' may be better) have organized themselves for a primaries process via poll.
The winner of the poll will obtain the backing of other other "zionist" candidates.
Meantime, the list of candidates in the poll has reduced from initially five to just two - being Eli Cohen and Aliza Bloch.
Both Cohen and Bloch are political novices. However, given the dramatic ascent in the General Elections of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, both 'political novices', fresh faces can be an asset.
Cohen comes from a strong organizational management background (senior positions in the Sochnut and Mekorot Water Company) and Bloch is an accomplished school principal who is credited with turning around Bronko-Weiss School.
Both candidates have run positive campaigns, avoiding denigrating either each other or (even) Moshe Abutbul.
Only one 'Zionist' candidate has refused to join this process - being Meir Balayish, Deputy Mayor, of the secular party "Dor Acher". Balayish is not a leading candidate, but may bring enough votes to act as 'spoiler'.
The influx of many thousands of Hareidi families in RBS Gimmel, Daled, etc over the coming five years, will mean that the 2018 election will certainly go to a Hareidi candidate - probably from United Torah Judaism (ie not Moshe Abutbul from Shas).
Hopefully, the winner of the upcoming poll will be able to credibly oppose incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul, in what will probably be the last opportunity for the city of Beit Shemesh to remain pluralistic.