Shas leader Aryeh Deri at faction meeting, December 31, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Shas Party has launched its electoral campaign with an election video appealing to religiously traditional voters who used to comprise the majority of its electorate.
The video features an array of men and women, most of whom do not appear outwardly religious, talking up Shas’s achievements and heritage.
“Shas will represent with me honor, they’ll do everything for me,” says one young man, while another says that anyone trying to bring down the party “won’t succeed,” possibly an allusion to police recommendations to indict party chairman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on various corruption charges.
A non-haredi woman talks of the importance of “equality between haredi, religious and secular citizens,” while another praised Shas for having reduced the price of public transport, playing up the party’s social justice profile.
Even several rakish looking youths with half-shaved haircuts say, somewhat unconvincingly, that they are voting Shas.
“I’m voting Shas because I’m a proud Sephardi, and I’m proud of Arye Deri who represents me and I trust him 100%,” says a man wearing a Chelsea FC soccer club tracksuit.
In the past, non-haredi but religiously traditional voters made up as much as 60 to 70 percent of Shas’s electorate when the party garnered double-digit Knesset seats, according to research done by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and Dr. Gilad Malach, director of the IDI’s ultra-Orthodox in Israel Program.
The death of Shas’s revered spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
, in 2013 led, however, to the mass desertion of such voters to other parties, leaving Shas a rump party of just seven seats.
Malach says that haredi voters now make up some 64% of Shas’s electorate, although the party is in danger of losing those as well, with polls regular giving the party four to six seats only.
The party has taken solace in strong municipal election results, however, where it preserved its status as the party with the highest number of municipal council seats in the country, and boasts that it received as many as 275,000 votes in local elections up and down the country.
However, these figures include instances where Shas ran on joint lists with other parties, so the true number of votes the party received is likely somewhat lower.
In just over a week, Shas will hold its party conference in Bat Yam, where it will hope to boost its electoral momentum.
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