A recurring theme around here is how candidates matter, even on closed lists and even in very high magnitude districts (where we might expect them to matter least).
Here are a couple of examples from the current Israeli campaign.
A recent Haaretz article by Judy Maltz notes that, “Having a Druze representative on a party ticket… has also proven helpful in bringing in votes in that candidate’s hometown.” Several examples are cited.
The back-story is that more parties than ever before are including candidates from the Druze minority this time. In recent elections, the Druze have tended to vote for right-wing parties, but there was considerable backlash in the community to the Basic Law–Nation-State, and so other parties are seeking to capitalize.
For instance, if Blue & White (the joint list of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid) wins at least 25 seats, the Knesset will have its first Druze woman. The list has been polling at 29-32 seats in recent polls, so she looks likely to be elected. If Meretz gets 5, that left-wing party will have its first Druze MK. The party has been right around 5-6 seats in most polls, although some have put it only at 4 (which is the minimum a party is likely to win, if it wins any, given the threshold).
Meanwhile, the New Right (led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, formerly of the Jewish Home party) has a candidate who has a following among English-speaking voters, Caroline Glick. She is ranked 6th. The New Right is polling at anywhere from around five to seven seats, so she is in that marginal range. Some Anglo voters may be finding the Zehut list led by Moshe Feiglin appealing (as much as it makes me shudder to realize that). A JPost article by Lahav Harkov notes:
Shaked said that “people debating between us and Feiglin should think whether they want to bring Caroline into the Knesset, or Libby Molad from the Green Leaf Party…”
The reference is to a candidate on the list of Zehut, which held an “open primary” and wound up with quite an eclectic set of candidates and issue stances. Molad is ranked 5th on the Zehut list, which has been polling above the threshold just recently in many polls, with 4-6 seats likely, if it wins any.
So Shaked of New Right is basically telling these wavering voters that they could make the difference between two individual marginal candidates, Glick or Molad.
As an aside, the cannabis issue may be on the line in this election: Feiglin recently stated he would not join a government if it did not commit to legalizing cannabis. I guess weed is the new green line in Israeli elections. According to many polls, the combined right-wing bloc may be close enough to 61 seats that Zehut could even be needed to make a coalition, although there is also a good chance it won’t be needed even if it does clear the threshold.
While we are on the topic of Feiglin, I have been using him for a few years now in various courses to make the point about the importance of candidates on closed lists. I use an anecdote from 2009, when Feiglin was still with Likud. For that campaign, he had an initial list rank of 19, which would have been good enough for a seat. But, fearing a backlash over Feiglin’s extreme nationalism, leader Benjamin Netanyahu managed to get Feiglin bumped down to the 36th slot, which was sure to be too low for a seat (the party ended up with 27 seats). Feiglin said at the time, “We all know when the Likud began to fall. The moment I was in a good spot, the Likud jumped to 40 mandates, but when I dropped,” so did the Likud. It is a fun case of a candidate claiming he could be worth some thirteen seats, if only he were in the top 20 on the list!
Finally, and slightly off-topic, my new favorite Israeli electoral rule is the one barring candidates from promising blessings for votes.
Earlier this week at F&V regarding candidates on closed lists: a case from South Africa.
And, on previous elections in Israel and the role of candidates at marginal ranks representing certain groups: Personal vote/group representation in Shas list (2006); Campaigning around the threshold (2013); Marginal candidates on closed lists (2015).