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Israel election: Arab voter turnout lower than in 2015

April 9, 2019 at 4:35 pm

A man casts his vote during the Israeli general elections in Tel Aviv on 9 April 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]

Voter turnout in today’s general election in Israel is currently lower than the last general election in 2015.

At around 14:00 local time [11:00 GMT], voter turnout was at 35.8 per cent, which had increased to 42.8 per cent by 16:00 local time [13:00 GMT]. The figure is down 2.6 per cent on the 2015 election, the last time Israel went to the polls.

These low figures appear to be the result of low turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom decided either to boycott the election or not to vote due to disillusionment with Israeli politics. Israel’s Palestinian citizens number 1.8 million and represent just over 20 per cent of the population, and with only half of those Palestinian citizens of Israel eligible to vote expected to head to polling stations today, this could have a profound impact on overall voting numbers.

Israeli professor Camil Fuchs, a pollster for Israeli daily Haaretz and Israel’s Channel 13, said that low turnout in Arab-Israeli communities “is the biggest problem. We have never seen such things, and this may be the biggest drama” of today’s election.

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Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a crisis meeting earlier today, following predictions that voter turnout could be lower than expected. According to Israel’s i24 news, Netanyahu’s Likud party convened an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem after he was briefed on low voter turnout in party strongholds.

Netanyahu took to Twitter to speak about the problems low voter turnout could cause. He wrote:

“On the way to a Likud event [in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod], I received a dramatic update on very low voter turnout in the Likud strongholds, as opposed to high voter turnout in the leftist strongholds. I cancelled the event and left for an emergency hearing in Jerusalem. The right must be saved. There are only a few more hours. Go out and vote for another solution we will get a leftist government.”

i24 added that “the warning is widely viewed as a strategy to boost turnout among its supporters rather than an actual reflection of official party data,” a strategy that Netanyahu has used throughout his campaign to scaremonger right-wing voters into supporting his Likud party.

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