Amid low turnout, Netanyahu says, ‘we’ll win or the journalists will’

According to the exit polls Tuesday evening, Netanyahu was the winner and will likely form a right-wing coaliton.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Election Day was marked by low voter turnout, especially in right-wing and Likud strongholds, a cause for worry for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But by 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, it was a slim victory for the Right, with Netanyahu at the helm.

The final count likely will be confirmed by the end of the week, as the number of “double envelope ballots” has increased significantly due to the coronavirus restrictions affecting those in isolation. Those ballots are brought to the Central Election Committee main headquarters and counted after the others.

Addressing the low turnout earlier in the day, Netanyahu said in Facebook live broadcast, “We will win or the journalists will win.”

By 8 p.m., 60.9% of eligible voters had cast ballots, according to Orly Adas, chair of the Central Elections Committee. It was the lowest turnout since 2009 (59.7%).

The low turnout was a boon to smaller parties, which must pass an electoral threshold of 3.25% of the total vote to enter the Knesset. Those that don’t pass that bar (and 3.25% has proven to be a fairly high one for smaller parties), simply don’t make it into the Knesset.

The more people who vote, the harder it is; the fewer votes, the easier.

Low turnout was across the board. The Joint List, the main Arab party, made an appeal for voters just before 9 p.m.: “Less than two hours to close the polls. The turnout in Arab society is very low. In the current state of affairs, this is a fatal blow to our representation in the Knesset. The danger of forming an extreme right-wing government of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smutrich is greater than ever.

“Every vote is important. Go out and vote – and vote. There is no democracy without the Joint [List].”

Predictions before the vote were mixed. Some said voter turnout would be high, others low.

“The percentage of people who say they aren’t voting is small,” Prof. Tamar Hermann of the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Research at the Israel Democracy Institute, told Haaretz last week. “Most people are saying they’ll vote. I’m not sure if they really will, but we have no indication of apathy or disinterest.”