The campaigning juggernaut has entered its final 10 frenzied days before
culminating in the January 22 general elections for Knesset.
A couple of
months ago, there was a general pall over the election process as it lumbered
With early polls predicting that the joint Likud Beytenu
list was headed for a sure landslide victory and a return of Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu to his leadership role in the country, the campaign promised
to be one of the most uneventful and dreary in recent memory.
intrigue surrounding the possible unity of the center-left Labor, Yesh Atid and
Tzipi Livni parties, the down-spiraling poll numbers of Likud Beytenu, and the
meteoric rise of Naftali Bennett and his Bayit Yehudi party, the 2013 election
campaign has taken on a vibrant life of its own.
And along with the
colorful mix of speeches, appearances and debates by the candidates, last week
saw the debut of the parties’ television and radio advertisements.
time, the TV spots were – much like Maccabi Tel Aviv games or the Eurovision
Song Contest – a national shared experience.
Back in the days before
commercial and cable television, and websites, a huge proportion of us hunkered
down in front of our one TV set and, captive audience that we were, ate up every
minute of the entertaining campaign ads.
Some of them were informative,
others funny, some professional, others came off like homemade movies. But they
were always potent water cooler fodder the next day.
Today, the ads may
have become more sophisticated, but many of the same elements are still there.
As the Post’s senior political correspondent Gil Hoffman pointed out in his
opening night critique of the ads last week, there are still plenty of hokey
gimmicks, questionable attempts at humor and moments of absurdity in the
What’s changed, however, is their impact. Part of it has
to do with so many other options on TV and online that vie for our attention.
They have dissipated that communal feeling of everyone watching the same thing
and discussing it afterward. But besides the increasing number of distractions
available at our fingertips, there may be other reasons why we’re not the
political junkies we once were.
There’s the growing disengagement from
politics and increasing sense of apathy that Israelis have acquired over the
past couple of decades. Granted, there are still many people who live and
breathe the latest political developments online and the hourly radio news
bulletins. But whereas political discourse used to be a mainstay of family
dinners and office confabs, today, it’s on the downswing.
Whether due to
information fatigue, an increasing feeling that their vote doesn’t really have
an influence due to the lack of direct representation in the Knesset, or simply
because of disillusionment over the long, sordid list of elected officials who
have been indicted and convicted for various crimes, there’s a sense that the
Israeli public is less connected to the political process than ever
Following a steady voter turnout in the high 70 percents
throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the last decade saw a drop to 63.5% in
2006, rising slightly to 64.7% in 2009.
It’s impossible to predict how
voters will behave on January 22, but it’s a fair assessment that the turnout
percentage won’t skyrocket.
And not only are we going to the voting
booths less, even those who are intent on voting apparently are having a hard
time deciding on a party. According to one recent poll, conducted for the Times
of Israel by political consultancy firm (202) Strategies, 31% of likely voters
remained undecided at the beginning of the month.
The results also showed
that those undecided voters lean slightly more to the Center-Left than to the
Right, suggesting that the final two weeks of the campaign may see a narrowing
of the gap between the right-wing and center-left blocs. If the poll is
accurate, it means that the results of next week’s election is not as much of a
foregone conclusion as was initially thought. It also means that unlike the
popular perception, every vote does count.
The results of next week’s
demonstration of Israeli democracy at its finest will determine the direction of
the country for possibly the next four years. The issues at stake are too
important for complacency to take hold.
We urge every eligible voter to
exercise his or her right as an Israeli citizen and participate the process.
It’s not only a right, it’s a responsibility.