"All politicians lie. My vote doesn't count. The polling station is too far" – These are just some of the excuses that are to be used by Israelis on January 22 to explain why they won't cast their ballot in the national elections. But political experts warn that if Israeli voting habits remain unchanged, democracy in the Jewish state is destined to fade.
Voter turnout has been on the decline since the establishment of the state. Back in the first decades following Israel's declaration of independence, some 80% of eligible citizens exercised their right to vote. That number has steadily dropped, reaching 65% in the last Knesset elections.
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But not all members of the Israeli public are apathetic to the political shuffle, and experts point to a vast disparity in voting habits between different sectors, socio-economic backgrounds and geographical regions.
Bnei Brak, for example, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city located in the center of Israel, sees a 72.4% voter turnout, compared to the Arab city of Nazareth, where only 47.8% of residents vote. Moreover, residents of wealthier towns tend to vote more than those of poorer towns.
As result, smaller sectors that have strong voting habits – like the ultra-Orthodox and the settlers – are more represented in government than they should be considering their percentage of the population, says Professor Avraham Diskin of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
"People who don't vote give more weight to the votes of those who do," Diskin says.
For this reason, Arabs Israelis and young voters made less of an impact on the political map in the last Knesset elections.
Minority turns into majority
Various analyses indicate that young adults in Israel are largely to blame for the gradual decline in voter turnout, and Professor Reuven Hazan has taken it upon himself to try and remedy this issue.
Hazan, who chairs the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University, has sent out letters to the Jerusalem-based institution's entire student body, urging the young 'uns to vote.
"This is the day we decide where this country is heading in the next four years," he told Ynet. "In our system, you're represented in accordance with the voter turnout in your sector."
Take the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations. While these sectors are similar in size, the haredi parties hold 19 Knesset seats while the Arab parties only hold 11. Hazan credits the discrepancy to the fact that over 90% of the ultra-religious vote, while less than 50% of Arabs cast their ballots.
"The risk is, hypothetically, that the minority will turn into the majority if pitted against the apathetic masses," Hazan says.
"We have 34 parties, so no one has a legitimate reason to say that he doesn't have anyone to vote for," he explains, adding that the fact that Israelis get a day off on election day gives them no excuse not to take part in the democratic process.
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