Daily Israel Report

Lowest Voter Turnout Ever Expected by Israeli-Arabs

Prof. Alex Bligh explores why despite calls from the Arab League urging Israeli-Arabs to vote, less than half will head to the polls.
By Annie Lubin
First Publish: 1/21/2013, 9:21 PM

Arab turnout for Tuesday's election is expected to be low
Arab turnout for Tuesday's election is expected to be low
Reuters

Despite calls from the Arab League urging Israeli-Arabs to vote in Tuesday's election, reports estimate that less than half will head to the polls, a turnout that may possibly be the group's lowest ever. 

The League asked Israeli-Arabs to, "boost their numbers at the polls, to strengthen their representation in Israel and to stand against those who disregard the principles of international law, justice and democracy," yet many claim the group, which represent one fifth of the population, feels disenfranchised. 

Arutz 7 spoke with Professor Alex Bligh, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at Ariel University, on voting in the Arab sector.

Bligh explored the issue of the Arab vote from 1949 up until the most recent election in 2009 and claims the degree of alienation between Israeli Arabs and the rest of the population is increasing and is reflected in the low turnout rate of Israeli Arabs.

Bligh said that as the government becomes more right-wing, the Arab population begins to feel like their vote has no sway. 

Most Arabs stay home on election day, Bligh found, because they feel that their vote is no more than a protest vote and that their representatives, even if they enter the government, do not have the power to bring about real change.

Bligh also argues that there is a sense among the Arab population that Arab MKs are too concerned with attacking Israel and not concerned with social or economic issues which affect the Arab communities.

On this note, Bligh also pointed out that voter turnout in Arab municipal elections is extremely high because social and economic issues are at the forefront and in these elections there is a feeling that their vote counts tremndously. Voter turnout for these elections amounts to about ninety percent. 

On Monday, Chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, called in Arabic on Israel's Arab citizens to vote in tomorrow's elections.

"I wish to call on you to participate in the elections," Rubinstein said in a television broadcast. "I want to convince you that your voice, the voice of every single one of you and the voice of all of you, have weight in the lives of this country in general and in your lives in particular, and so it is important to vote," he added.