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Poll predicts all-time-low Arab turnout in election, potentially boosting Netanyahu

Just 39% of community expected to cast ballots in upcoming vote; if Balad splits from Joint List, party unlikely to cross threshold, possibly handing Likud majority support

Arab-Israelis cast their ballots as they vote in Israel's general election, in Kafr Manda, northern Israel on March 23, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Arab-Israelis cast their ballots as they vote in Israel's general election, in Kafr Manda, northern Israel on March 23, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

An opinion poll published by the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday predicted the lowest-ever turnout among Arab Israelis in the November 1 national election, potentially causing Arab representation in the Knesset to dwindle and handing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu a parliamentary majority.

The survey — conducted by Yousef Makladeh’s Statnet firm, which specializes in Israel’s Arab minority, in conjunction with the Arabic-language public network Makan 33 — predicted that Arab turnout in the upcoming vote will be 39 percent, the lowest in the country’s history.

The poll, however, included answers from just 200 Arab-Israeli respondents, and neither Kan nor Makan provided a margin of error for the survey.

The current lowest turnout among Arab voters, 44.6%, was reached in the most recent election in 2021. A year before that, when all four major Arab and Arab-majority parties ran on a combined slate as the Joint List, Arab participation hit its peak — 64.8%, giving the Joint List 15 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

But the independent run by the Islamist Ra’am party in last year’s election caused Arab representation to drop down to 10 seats in the current Knesset (6 for the Joint List, 4 for Ra’am), and the poll predicted it will further drop to nine — five for the Joint List and four for Ra’am — if the makeup of parties doesn’t change.

The survey also found that votes from the Arab community will give 1.5 Knesset seats to Netanyahu’s Likud party. Asked why they would vote for the right-wing bloc leader Netanyahu, respondents told Kan that during his 12 years in power, they paid less for goods in stores than under the current government.

MK Ayman Odeh (left), head of the Joint List, and MK Ahmad Tibi attend a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The poll also found that if the Palestinian nationalist Balad party splits off from the Joint List, as it is threatening to do, Arab representation will suffer a further blow, even risking the possibility that all three parties will fail to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold.

In such a scenario, Balad will fail to enter the Knesset, and both the Joint List and Ra’am will be perilously close to oblivion at four seats each, just over the threshold.

The dip in Arab party representation from the current 10 seats to 8 would be reflected in a slight boost for other parties — enough to push Likud and its right-wing and religious allies to 61 seats, a majority in the Knesset. Current polls predict that Netanyahu’s bloc will win 59-60 seats, while parties in the current coalition — which includes Ra’am — would have around 45-55 seats, continuing a political deadlock that has forced four previous elections over the past three years.

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