Exercising the right to vote

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.

Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
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 into action.
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.
Between the 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.
At one 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 campaign spots.
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 before.
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.