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January 23, 2013 11:51 am

Arab Voter Turnout Low But Arab Parties Still Gain Seat in 19th Knesset

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Israeli knesset (parliament). Photo: Chris Yunker.

The 2013 Israeli elections boasted the highest voter turnout since 1999, hovering around 67%,  but Arab voters were substantially less enthusiastic about exercising their democratic right, with only about 45% casting a vote, according to Israel Hayom.. However, Arab parties won 12 seats, one more than in the 18th Knesset.

The Jewish-Arab Hadash Party was satisfied that polls predicting four to five seats proved correct, and stressed that the last time the party had five seats was in 1977.

“It appears that our strength in the Knesset grew, but we prefer to wait for the real results,” said Hadash leader Mohammad Barakeh, following the release of the exit polls Tuesday night.

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Members of Ra’am-Ta’al were also pleased that their party was able to retain its Knesset presence, with Israeli media reporting Wednesday the party’s haul of five seats.

“We are satisfied, though we hoped for more seats,” party chairman MK Ahmed Tibi said Tuesday night.

Addressing low voter turnout, Tibi said, “The Arab public needs to know that whoever doesn’t vote essentially provides another voice to Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Lieberman.”

The National Democratic Assembly (Balad) refused to respond to exit polls, which suggested two to three seats won, in the hopes that the number would be higher.

“I think that the real results will show that we kept our three seats and maybe even earned four,” MK Hanin Zoabi said on Tuesday. Final results released Wednesday report a win of three seats.

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