Israel's 'Arab Parties' Seek to Combat Indifference and Low Voter Turnout

'During this election, a high voter turnout within the Arab community could be decisive in terms of the bigger picture,' says Hadash party chairperson, MK Mohammed Barakeh.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Israel's Arab parties are very concerned over what they are calling indifference, or systematic frustration, that seems to keep the country's Arab voters away from the polls on Election Day. The three parties which rely on Arab voters, The United Arab list-Ta'al, Hadash, and Balad, will use the next two days, and Election Day itself, to try and incite their base voters to go out and vote. These parties will attempt to warn their voters that every vote they don't cast is registered as a vote for right-wing parties.

The fear of low voter turnout is exemplified in a special poll published on a local Arabic radio station, Radio A-Shams, which broadcasts from Nazareth, and has been attempting to galvanize the Arab community to vote in the upcoming election.

The poll, conducted by the Stat-net institute, questioned 463 eligible voters, representing a cross-section of the population, and reflecting the proper ethnic proportions.

According to the poll, the turnout among Arab voters stands at 48 percent.

The fear of such a low turnout has prompted local organizations and social groups to launch various initiatives aimed at getting the Arab population to vote.
In addition, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which has coordinated all of the political movements within the Arab community, has also made calls for Arab citizens to vote for one of the three parties.

Hadash party chairperson, MK Mohammed Barakeh told Haaretz that internal polls conducted by Hadash reveal slightly higher voter turnout percentages, showing about 55 percent. That is no reason to get complacent, according to Baraekh, who claims that his party is still working out in the field, going door to door to rouse the people to vote, and to tell them that there is no room for indifference to the election.

"I don't consider it indifference, I consider it systematic frustration that the establishment creates in order to distance the Arab community from positions of influence. We are fighting against that system, and believe it or not, during this election, a high voter turnout within the Arab community could be decisive in terms of the bigger picture," said Barakeh.

During the last few days, the three parties have been analyzing the data to determine where they can be most influential. Speaking to Haaretz, Balad party chairperson, MK Jamal Zahalka said that there is no time left to exert effort in attempting to influence those who are boycotting the elections on ideological grounds.

"We are trying to convince those who are indifferent, to go out and vote, because each vote counts, and whoever doesn't vote is essentially serving the right wing. I am against the claim that there is a lack of faith in the Arab parties, because at the end of the day, most of the Arab community does in fact vote for the parties that represent it. We are now working locally, putting more activists out in the field, and especially on Election Day, we will go from house to house to invite the people to vote," said Zahalka.

The public relations committee for the United Arab List-Ta'al party, which is run by MK Ahmed Tibi, intensified their efforts in making phone calls to Arab voters, as well as reaching out through social media. "We are explaining to those who don't vote they are effectively voting for the right-wing parties, relatively speaking, and there is a general, national tendency of indifference and failure to vote, and this is expressed within the Arab community by a minority", read a statement from the United Arab List-Ta'al.

"We are working to change this dynamic, and even if there is criticism from Arab parties and MKs among the Arab community, which is legitimate, not all Arab MK's are without merit, and not all of them are sideline politicians. There are some whose actions are worthwhile, as legislators and as leaders, and as authentic, proud representatives of the Arab community," the statement added.

Hadash Chairman Mohammed Barakeh, right, and MK Dov Khenin, left.Credit: Tomer Noyberg

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