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Why was Arab voter turnout so low in Israel’s elections?


Voter turnout stood at 50% this year, a 13% drop from 63% in 2015

An Israeli Arab woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Haifa

Daoud Kuttab reports in Al-Monitor:

Palestinian voter turnout in Israeli elections has dropped substantially in recent years, prompting Palestinian leaders in Israel to call the reduction an “emergency situation.” Voter turnout stood at 50% this year, a 13% drop from 63% in 2015. The reduced turnout has led to a loss of three Knesset seats since 2015, from 13 to 10 out of a total 120 seats.

The low turnout in the April 9 elections is a reflection of the desperation and lack of faith among Arab citizens in Israel toward the political system, which has ignored them and passed laws that discriminate against non-Jewish residents.

Botrus Mansour, director general of the Nazareth Baptist School, told Al-Monitor that even though Palestinian citizens have done well economically and their legislators have performed solidly in the Knesset, those factors have failed to boost turnout. “Nazareth had the biggest drop in voting,” he said of the largest Arab city in Israel. “While some intellectuals boycotted [the elections] on an ideological basis, most stayed away out of apathy and desperation.”

Mansour blames political marginalization for the low turnout. “The marginalization of Arabs and their lack of influence, despite their abilities, is a major reason for this feeling of desperation,” he said.

Jamal Zakout, a leader of the first intifada and an adviser to former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, told Al-Monitor that Palestinian nationalism has receded in general and been replaced by a desire to address daily issues. “Palestinians in the 1948 areas [Israel] have chosen to prioritize daily life issues over the national issues,” he said. “People didn’t care about the national issues despite the [Jewish] nationality law, which clearly discriminates against them.”

Zakout also argued that “the division and the split of the Joint List” affected voters.

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