Interior Minister Aryeh Deri declared Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe Lion the victor in Tuesday’s runoff overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, as the local ballot count ended with the ultra-Orthodox-backed candidate ahead of his rival, Ofer Berkovitch, by over 6,000 votes.
Lion claimed victory about two hours later.
Deri — a longtime supporter and friend of Lion — posted a video on Twitter of his phone call congratulating the Jerusalem council member on his ostensible win. “I congratulated my friend, Moshe Lion, the elected mayor of the Jerusalem municipality,” he said.
רגע הניצחון בלשכת השר דרעי pic.twitter.com/e2lqyWCPia
— ישי כהן (@ishaycoen) November 13, 2018
Lion, who has a warm relationship with many Shluchim and is a friend of Chabad in Israel, declared victory around 2:15 a.m.
“Jerusalem tonight chose unity, the sense of togetherness, the good,” Lion told a packed hall of supporters, many of whom were enthusiastically chanting “Aryeh Deri.”
“I intend to be the mayor of all of Jerusalem’s residents, whomever they may be. Those that voted for me, and those that didn’t,” said Lion.
The nail-biting tallying since the polls closed at 10 p.m. saw some preemptively cheering Berkovitch as the capital’s next mayor.
At midnight the 35-year-old secular activist-turned city council member found himself way ahead of Lion, widening his lead by as much as 10,000 votes with 50 percent of the ballots counted.
But Berkovitch’s advantage was gradually whittled down, with Lion gliding ahead by 6,000 votes as the tally topped the 90 percent mark. He then held 51% to Berkovitch’s 48%, according to initial results.