Voter turnout could be lowest ever

The turnout in the April election was 68.5%, down from 72.3% in 2015, but the Arab turnout was only 49%. Low turnout in the Arab sector was blamed on frustration over the Arab parties splitting up.

By
September 18, 2019 00:46
2 minute read.
An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the n

An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the northern town of Umm el-Fahm March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

All eyes in Tuesday’s election will be on voter turnout, which could end up deciding the race.

A record 6,394,030 Israelis 18-years-old and older will be eligible to vote at 10,885 polling stations nationwide. Most will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There will be 3,000 Central Elections Committee observers, armed with 1,000 cameras to ensure the race is fair. There are 29 parties running.

Due to voter frustration over Israel holding its second election in five months, pundits have speculated that this could be the Knesset election with the lowest turnout ever. The Knesset election that holds the current record was 2006, with 63.5% turnout, according to Ofer Kenig of the Israel Democracy Institute.

In the 2001 election – which was for prime minister and not the Knesset – the turnout was 62.3%. Arab voters boycotted that election due to the October 2000 killings of 12 Arab Israelis by police, which led to an Arab turnout of only 18%.

The turnout in the April 9 election was 68.5%, down from 72.3% in 2015, but the Arab turnout was only 49%. The low turnout in the Arab sector was blamed on frustration over the Arab parties splitting up.

Experts on the Arab sector predicted that turnout there would surpass 60% on Tuesday, after the Arab parties reunited into the Joint List and party leader Ayman Odeh spoke about the possibility of joining a coalition for the first time, or being part of a blocking majority in return for benefits for the country’s Arab citizens.

In an effort to increase turnout, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai and other mayors promised discounts in swimming pools and recreational centers for voters. Huldai also promised discounted beer.

But Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that the discounts would be considered election bribery following a petition by Shas leader Arye Deri. The Central Elections Committee also prohibited the discounts. Huldai decided to instead give the discounts to all residents with a residency card.

“Huldai should send me flowers, because if I didn’t cancel his decision and he would have done it, there would have been a police investigation,” Deri said.

Likud, meanwhile, took steps to encourage voting in the periphery, where there is strong support for the party. In the April election, turnout in the periphery was 10% less than the national average.


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