Arab MKs, experts tell ‘Post’: Expect higher election turnout with united slate

CEO of polling company Statnet tells ‘Post’ that according to data it appears that MK Ahmed Tibi is most popular politician to lead united Arab party.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset.
Arab turnout will increase compared to past elections if a united Arab list is formed, Israeli-Arab MKs, academics and the Statnet research institute told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
And according to recent data, United Arab List-Ta’al head MK Ahmed Tibi is the most popular politician to lead a united party, Yousef Makladeh, CEO of Statnet, told the Post.
He said it’s too early to say if one or two lists (with an agreement) would get more seats in the next Knesset, but it’s clear that both options would probably increase Arabs turnout.
However, he said the poll he is working on in the Arab sector has a low response rate of around 26 percent, but it will rise as elections approach.
Tibi told the Post on Thursday his party would have no problem getting into the Knesset by itself, even with the raised threshold of 3.25%.
However, “from this strong position we are calling for one joint list,” he said, adding this is what the vast majority of the Arab public wants. “Some other parties and academics are saying that two united lists would get more votes than one, but we want one united list.”
In any case, if there are one or two united Arab parties running in the elections, Tibi predicts turnout to increase to around 60%-65%.
Asked who should lead the united Arab party, Tibi responded that it should be based on popularity in the Arab sector, according to a primary or a poll.
A political source told the Post that the Arab-Jewish Hadash party is seeking the option of running two separate Arab lists as opposed to one.
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi told the Post that based on analyzing past polling, she predicts 80% turnout if Arabs run as one party.
“Palestinians in Israel don’t understand why we run separately,” she said. “We are not running to be part of the government in any case, but in the opposition.
“We are not just a political opposition, but also an ideological one,” said Zoabi, going on to point out that it cannot be compared to oppositions in European countries.
“We don’t agree with the idea of a Jewish state,” and our political struggle must unite, because it empowers us and makes “our political weight stronger.”
If we are united, then other parties will be forced to treat our demands more seriously, she said. Ideologically, Zoabi admits that a united Arab list will not agree on all points, saying that Balad supports a one-state solution.
Sammy Smooha, a sociologist from the University of Haifa, told the Post that a united Arab list, or lists, would likely raise the turnout of the Arab vote above the 56% rate in 2013.
“It is unlikely, however, to reach 80% because the actual vote is usually lower than the intended vote as declared in the polls because it is easier to declare intention than to act,” explained Smooha.
“The expected increase in the Arab voting rate depends on the number of Arab lists running for the Knesset election,” he said. “The fewer the lists the greater the increase, because Arabs prefer just one united list.”
Sami Miaari, an Israeli-Arab lecturer at Tel Aviv University’s labor studies department and a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute told the Post there is no way turnout will reach 80%, “no matter what any Knesset members think.”
“Knesset members don’t understand statistics and mislead voters,” he said.
Asked about Zoabi’s prediction for an 80% turnout, Miaari criticized her saying, “She does not understand politics and speaks nonsense.”
The Arab public not only wants a united party, but also new leadership, he argued. It is difficult to enter Arab political parties, because they are closed to newcomers, acting like private companies.