Lion elected Jerusalem mayor in victory for ultra-Orthodox

Mayoral candidate Moshe Lion, left, and his wife pose for the media as they cast their votes at a polling station in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. Israelis were choosing their next mayors in dozens of locations across the country Tuesday, with the main focus on the largest city of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Longtime political activist Moshe Lion has been elected mayor of Jerusalem in a victory for ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents.

Lion, who was backed by much of Israel’s top leadership, claimed victory over Ofer Berkovitch early Wednesday in a closely contested race. Lion enjoyed the support of key ultra-Orthodox factions and their representatives in government, as well as that of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and powerful figures in the ruling Likud party.

The 35-year-old Berkovitch is a secular activist who pushed a progressive agenda against religious hard-liners.

Jerusalem’s diverse population is split nearly evenly between Palestinians Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and the rest of the Jewish residents — both secular and observant.

The mayor has little influence over Middle East politics and diplomacy, but has a strong symbolic presence both nationally and internationally.

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