Jerusalem Votes in Bizarre Race for Mayor
Rabbi, investor and Russian soccer boss vie for control of holy city
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2008 2:31 PM CST
Russian-Israeli billionaire and Jerusalem Mayoral candidate Arkady Gaydamak, right, makes a campaign stop in a market in Jerusalem, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008.    (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
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(Newser) – Jerusalem went to the polls to elect a mayor today, and the selection of candidates is nothing if not eccentric, Time reports. Sure to capture the Orthodox Jewish vote is Meir Porush, a rabbi with a visage so imposing his campaign uses a cartoon on its posters. Vying for the secular Jews who fear Porush's extreme religiosity are former venture capitalist Nir Barkat and Jewish-Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, enigmatic owner of Jerusalem’s Beitar soccer team.

Barkat is expected to win the secular/moderate vote, but to do it he’s drifted to the right, promising to stimulate the economy by building more Jewish settlements in Arab East Jerusalem. Gaydamak has thus decided his only hope is to win the Arab vote, an odd proposition given that Beitar’s fans are notoriously racist, chanting “Death to Arabs” at matches. Worse, Arabs typically boycott elections, with militants savagely beating any who dare vote.