Saar: 'Must Increase Election Participation'

Interior Minister says he may even bring back a vacation day to bump up turnout for municipal elections

Adam Ross ,

Interior Minister at elections HQ in Kfar Mac
Interior Minister at elections HQ in Kfar Mac
Yoni Kempinsky

Israel's Interior Minster MK Gidon Saar (Likud) has said he is pleased with the way municipal elections took place on Tuesday but says more needs to be done to increase participation.

Low turnouts were apparent across the country with 35.97% of those eligible to vote casting ballots in Jerusalem – while in Tel Aviv more than two thirds of residents failed to cast votes, as the city recorded a turnout of 32%.

Some even doubted turnout would make it into double figures as only 9% had voted by mid-morning, although things did pick up as the day drew on.

Saar told Arutz Sheva, "We definitely need to think of ways of increasing participation in the elections and whether it is worth bringing back a day off [work] for municipal elections that we had some 25 years ago."

He added, "Municipal elections only take place every five years but they have a great bearing on the future."

Saar also said Israel should consider switching to an electronic voting system, but said the matter needed careful consideration and time to assess the experiences of other countries.

The Minister said the municipal elections were the largest ever to take place in Israel, with voting in 191 local authority elections. "We are still involved in the counting stages which is a sensitive stage," Saar said, adding that he was "very pleased" with the way the day had passed.

Wednesday, police also summed up the day with satisfaction, saying that there were relatively few problematic incidents at the polling stations nationwide.

The most serious incident took place at Beit Shemesh, where eight suspects were arrested after they were found to be in possession of around 200 ID cards of Israeli citizens who are currently abroad. Police suspect that they intended to use them for voting fraudulently. They were taken into questioning.