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Expected upcoming election will cost Israel up to NIS 2.9 billion, experts say

Manufacturers Association and independent businesses chamber call for canceling paid day off, which think tank says alone carries a price tag of NIS 1.5 billion

Voting slips for Knesset elections on March 23, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
Illustrative: Voting slips for Knesset elections on March 23, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

The cost to Israel’s economy of the expected upcoming general election, the fifth such vote in less than four years, will be up to nearly NIS 3 billion, according to an estimate from the Israel Democracy Institute.

The IDI put the cost of the elections, expected at the end of the year, as between NIS 2.54 billion ($733 million) to NIS 2.9 billion ($837 million), Channel 12 News reported Tuesday.

The Knesset on Wednesday held the first in a series of votes to disband, at the request of the government, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced earlier this week that his diverse, crisis-hit coalition of eight parties could no longer function.

Election day alone, which is a paid day off to enable citizens to vote, will cost NIS 1.5 billion, according to figures from the Macro Center for Political Economics think tank, cited by Channel 12 news.

Many Israelis vote early, late or not at all and use the day for recreation or for spending time with their families.

Small and medium-sized businesses will bear 43 percent to 53 percent of those costs, or around NIS 645-745 million, Macro CEO Roby Nathanson told Channel 12.

The Israel Manufacturers Association has estimated that the cost to the economy of the expected election will be NIS 1.9 billion to businesses and NIS 900 million to public coffers. In total, the cost of the six election days since 2015 — including the upcoming vote — will be NIS 16.8 billion, according to Channel 12.

Manufacturers Association president Ron Tomer said the election day off for workers should be canceled, since it has, “in recent years, due to the political instability, become a huge and unfair financial burden on the shoulders of employers.”

Israeli citizens cast their votes at a ballots station in Jerusalem on elections day for the 20th Knesset, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney Roi Cohen, president of LAHAV, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, issued a similar call to cancel the day off.

Independent businesses and employers “are paying for the election costs from their own pockets,” he said in a statement.

Beyond the lost productivity, there is the financing of the actual election itself, including budgeting the Central Elections Committee, which in turn provides funding for the parties campaigning for spots in the Knesset.

Nathanson said that historically, the Central Elections Committee budget has grown by 10%-20% with each election. This time around, he estimated, it will reach NIS 1 billion ($288.7 million).

Roby Nathanson, March 2, 2022 (Screen grab/YouTube)

Aside from the cost of staffing the committee, setting up polling stations and printing the million of paper voting slips, each party gets state funding for its election activities.

The  amount each party is entitled to is calculated based on the average of number of seats it already holds and the number it wins in the election. Parties borrow from the state to finance their campaigns according to how much funding they expect to eventually receive. New parties make their estimates according to pre-election polling.

Nathanson estimated that party funding in the expected election will come to between NIS 216 million and NIS 236 million. A further cost is from those parties that hold primaries. A 2018 law bans current MKs from raising funds for primaries and instead the state provides them a budget, even though they may eventually not be chosen to represent their party. That could add up to another NIS 12.8 million, Nathan estimated.

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