Political parties spare no effort to woo first time voters

On March 17th, thousands of twelfth graders will be eligible to cast their ballot, and the political parties are hard at work wooing these first time voters through panels and mock elections.

February 23, 2015 21:25
3 minute read.

A Book Club meeting of students from the Lady Davis Multidisciplinary High School in Tel Aviv and the Multidisciplinary High School in Taiba.. (photo credit: COURTESY AMAL)

In the campaigning for the upcoming election, politicians from the Right and Left have put a lot of effort into appealing to one key demographic – first-time voters.

On March 17, thousands of 12th graders will be eligible to cast their ballot, and the political parties are hard at work wooing these first-time voters through panels and mock elections at high schools around the country.

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The past month has seen politicians – including several party leaders themselves – visit dozens of high schools, pitching their platforms and laying subtle and sometimes not so subtle jabs at their opponents, all in an attempt to woo young voters.

The latest high school panel took place on Monday at Ort Kiryat Motzkin High School, with high-level representatives from all the parties once again in attendance, including Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Shas leader Arye Deri, Shai Piron (Yesh Atid), Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) and Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud).

Following the panel, 11thand 12th-grade students cast their mock ballots, declaring Bayit Yehudi the winner with 22.6 percent of the vote, followed by Yesh Atid with 21.7%, and the Likud with 18.35%.

Similar mock elections were held on Monday at Ort Holon High School and Kiryat Yam High School, in which the Likud won the majority at both schools.

On Sunday, Blich High School in Ramat Gan held its traditional mock election, which has acted as a bellwether in the past. The school’s students voted for the Likud in 1977 ahead of that year’s political upheaval, correctly predicted changes of power in 1992 and 1996, and gave a boost to Yesh Atid in 2013.

The parties spared no effort to appeal to the students, with visits to the school ahead of the mock election and extravagant stages and rallies set up on the day.

The Zionist Union brought a DJ for the students, while other parties simply handed out balloons to the potential voters.

In the end, the Zionist Union won 32% of the vote, Yesh Atid 28%, and the Likud 14%.

Despite the excitement and the stock that the politicians put into the mock elections, there are those who view the attempts by the parties to woo young voters with skepticism and concern.

Orly Levy-Abecassis, whose Yisrael Beytenu party only received 2% of the vote at the Blich mock election, criticized Yesh Atid for its populist strategy.

“It was a pretty stormy day at Blich High School, but unfortunately it was not stormy due to substantive arguments or the raising of issues that concern Israeli society, but more because of the huge and gaudy entertainment stage erected by Yesh Atid, with loud music, paid dancers, costumes and what not. Except for real content and records of real action they had everything,” she said on Facebook.

Last week, Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon, chairwoman of the Lobby for Parliamentary Culture, penned a letter to Education Ministry director-general Michal Cohen calling to reassess the makeup of the political panels at high schools.

“Even before the first question, one candidate encourages chanting and clapping with [statements like]: ‘[Haneen] Zoabi to Jordan,’ or ‘We will not sit in a government of the Left.’ “This behavior causes quite a stir, whereby the rest of the candidates can choose to either speak in slogans and severe clichés and thus win applause, or avoid this and be considered weak,” she said.

According to Calderon, the panels, rather than serving as a platform of dialogue on political issues, have become a “clash of gladiators to the cheers of the crowd.”

“The shouting matches between politicians in schools and the accompanying media coverage have caused a deterioration in the Israeli political discourse,” she said.

Whether or not the students are able to differentiate between the parties’ wooing strategies and their concrete platforms will be put to the test in the real March election. Until then, the parties plan to continue fighting over these young voters.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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