Arab Community Suffers an Election Day of Ups and Down

Turnout is strong in the morning, slow in the afternoon, then strong in the evening. The party blames Netanyahu's 'incitement and racism' for the fluctuations.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
A voter casting her ballot in Beit Safafa on Election Day, March 17, 2015.
A voter casting her ballot in Beit Safafa on Election Day, March 17, 2015. Credit: Emil Salman
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Election Day in Israel’s Arab community was both joyous and tense, as many voters cast their ballots for the joint Arab ticket but worried about the slower turnout in the afternoon.

The stream of voters heading to the polls slowed toward noon, sparking concerns among supporters of the Joint List — the ticket comprised of three Arab parties and an Arab-Jewish one. In some Arab towns, especially in the Negev, turnout was still as low as 40 percent by early evening.

Joint List members said Election Day campaign messages by the ruling Likud party, which urged its supporters to get out, vote and counter the morning’s high Arab turnout, discouraged many Arabs from voting.

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) petitioned the Central Elections Committee to force Likud to halt those messages. “The prime minister, who is campaigning against voting by citizens belonging to a national minority, is crossing a red line of incitement and racism,” Khenin said.

“This is especially grave on Election Day, when the message to all Israeli citizens is to participate in the election, vote and take part in the democratic system. Such a message put out by the prime minister shows that he has completely lost his way and is willing to violate every democratic principle for the sake of staying in power.”

Toward evening, as happened in previous elections, Arabs began voting in larger numbers, and many polling stations were crowded. Many mosques used their public address systems to urge people to vote, and cars mounted with loudspeakers roamed the streets broadcasting the same message. Activists on social media also urged people to vote.

Joint List members warned that a showing below 13 seats would be a failure in the 120-seat Knesset and have negative ramifications for the joint ticket’s future.

Joint List chief Ayman Odeh voted near his Haifa home in the morning before embarking on a day of campaigning.

“Like every Arab citizen of the state today, I’m excited to vote and be part of history and the turning point that will substantially change the lives of Arab citizens and all citizens of the state,” he said.

“I urge you all to go out and vote this morning, to believe it’s possible for things to be better here — that we, Arabs and Jews, can create a better future for our children with our own hands.”

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