A democratic system is based on the participation of its citizens in the political process. Apathy on the part of citizens, their alienation from the political process, and mistrust of their political representatives constitute a dangerous corruption of any democratic regime. One of the accepted indices for assessing the extent of political involvement is voter turnout. Israel’s voter turnout rate in past Knesset elections reached high levels, placing Israel at the forefront of countries with high voter participation rates (in all eight election campaigns between 1949 and 1969 this rate exceeded 80 percent). With time, however, there has been a steady decline in this rate: in the elections for the Sixteenth Knesset in 2003 the voter turnout rate was only 67.8 percent (and only 63.2 percent in the prime ministerial election in 2001). The 2006 general election marked a low point, with a turnout of only 63.5 percent. This decline is not unique to Israel; there has been a steady drop in voting rates in many Western democracies, averaging slightly more than 1 percent from one election campaign to the next. The lowest point among Western democracies was reached in established democracies, such as Switzerland and the U.S., where voter turnout rates have fallen to around 54 percent. This drastic decline arouses concern, signaling a rise in the political alienation felt by citizens and the undermining of the essential infrastructure of participatory democracies.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2008 by Taylor and Francis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (all)