How Volatile are the Israeli Voters?

Volatility has become a by-word for Israeli elections.

Few electoral systems witness such dramatic political party convulsions in the months or weeks before an election. Political parties appear and disappear with astonishing regularity. ‘Splits’, ‘Mergers’ ‘Schisms’ and ‘Ad-hoc Alliances’ are all the norm as personalities and parties jockey for electoral supremacy.

It’s not uncommon that once an election is actually called, alliances disintegrate, new grouping magically appear and a game of ‘musical chairs’ or ‘Party Hopping’ commences (the often-dramatic announcement of a decision to leave one party and join another). At least one new party manages to break through and appear for the first time following each Knesset election.

Many of these so-called NEW grouping are often simply old wines in new bottles – recycled soundbites and ambitious egos in shiny new containers. There would appear to be a strong correlation between the vacuousness of political party name and the of the blandness or emptiness its party rhetoric.  “There is a Future” (Yesh Atid), “All of Us” (Koulanu)

2019 is once again proving no different.

New parties this year include “Israel’s Resilience” (Hosen L’Yisrael) “Bridge” (Gesher) and “Movement for National Renewal” (Telem an acronym for “Tnua LeHithadshut Mamlachtit,”

All of the aforementioned middle-of the-road centrist parties are running in April’s election. All incidentally have a deliberately ambiguous or incomprehensible vague policy on the merits or otherwise of the creation of a future Palestinian state (The Elephant in the room of the election campaign)

The reason for all this party and political personality volatility is deceptively simple and is one that is often overlooked by the Israeli media; namely the little discussed fact that Israel almost uniquely internationally has no electoral or parliamentary constituencies.

“With no constituencies there are therefore no ‘long term incumbents’, no ‘local bailiwicks’, in effect no territorial loyalty or personal connection between a local politician and a local voter

With a single national constituency and just a 3.25% threshold to enter the Knesset (Prior to 2015 it was just 2%) Israel incentivises new (and small parties). The electoral system incentivises ‘pop-up-parties’ driven by big personalities and egos. The lack of that local incumbency factor and ease to which new parties can emerge all contributes to the volatility.

Already in 2019, we have witnessed the acrimonious divorce of Labor and Hatnua (Zionist Union) the break-up of Habayit Hayehudi and a threat from the Ta’al Party to leave (Palestinian dominated) Joint List – We have still more than 70 days to go.

baby habima.jpg

Decision Time – Which way to face, Left, Right or Centre?


All of this this electoral volatility begs two simple questions.

Firstly, can we capture or adequately measure the level volatility in election results?

Secondly, is the (predicted – as reflected in current polls) volatility of the result of the 2019 election much different than previous elections?

The short answer to the first question is Yes. The short answer to the second question is No.

We have endeavoured to measure the electoral volatility of recent elections by measuring five distinct metrics. All are given Equal Weight. The five metrics are as followed:

  1. The appearance of a Brand-New party/parties (Metric: Number of Knesset seats gained for each New party)
  2. The reappearance of a past party and/or merger of two existing Knesset parties (Metric: Number of Knesset seats gained)
  3. The involuntary disappearance of Knesset party (Metric: Number of Knesset seats lost)
  4. The total Seat Change for existing Knesset Parties (Metric: Knesset seat Gains and Losses for each party)
  5. The total number of separate parties in the Knesset (Metric: Number of parties in the Knesset)

Our analysis over the past five elections reveals the following;

The Election of 2006 was apparently the most volatile with a Volatility Score of (119). That was the year (Ariel’s Sharon) new party Kadima first tested its electoral appeal (topping the polls at 29 seats) Israeli Beitanu reappeared (11 seats) The Pensioners Party (Gill) unexpectedly won 7 seats (it vanished just as quickly) and Shinnui the centrist populist party vanished entirely (15 seats lost). A total of 12 parties were elected to the Knesset.

There were 10 parties in the outgoing Knesset. Despite the rise in the electoral threshold in 2015 to 3.25%, currently 13 parties are polling above the threshold and destined to enter the Knesset. The number of parties elected to the Knesset in other recent elections were as follows: 2003 (13), 2009 (12), 2013 (13).

Our current average Polls and Polls (more on that later) suggest that the 21st Knesset in 2019 will register a Volatility Score of (87) – actually marginally LOWER than the average for the past five elections (89).

So, despite all the splits and mergers, live TV drama, the hastily arranged press conferences, and a Prime Minister ‘commandeering’ all national TV stations for what appears to personal political gain – in terms of change – 2019 result is shaping up to be just another average election in Israel.


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