It’s not hard to see why. The issues have not changed; nor have the candidates, platforms, or promises.
Electoral reruns rarely seem to change anything. Spain’s general election in April resulted in a similar deadlock to Israel’s: The ruling Socialist Party won the most seats, but lacked an absolute majority to form a government on its own. A repeat election this month, aimed at breaking the impasse, only resulted in further stalemate. Reruns are not new, either. Britain held two elections in 1974. The first, in February, resulted in a hung Parliament. The political instability prompted a second vote just eight months later, for which the Liberal Party adopted the slogan “One more heave.” In the end, the Labour Party won a three-seat majority.
So if repeat elections often lead to repeat results, why do countries resort to them? In the case of Israel, though turnout slightly increased, the outcome more or less remained the same. “There were absolutely no massive differences,” Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israel-based pollster and political analyst, told me, noting that both times, the election results aligned with long-standing ideological differences in Israeli society. Though these divisions within Israeli society are hardly new, political parties have traditionally been able to overcome them by reaching compromises with ideologically like-minded parties. This time, however, increased political fragmentation has made that all but impossible. “It’s almost like the social contradictions have gotten so deep that the political level is now manifesting them,” she said, “and that’s causing … paralysis.”
Still, repeat elections could be seen as the best way of breaking that paralysis. At least that’s the argument Britain’s Labour Party has made in support of its campaign pledge to hold a second referendum over whether the country should leave the European Union, an issue that has embroiled British politics in a years-long stasis. Labour’s proposed public vote wouldn’t pose the same question as the original 2016 referendum, but the underlying issue—whether to stay in the EU or leave—remains unchanged. Similarly, the Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has called for holding a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from Britain; an initial bid for independence failed in 2014.
In both cases, the prospect of change is far from certain. Though support for Scottish secession has increased since 2014, according to recent polling, the issue has yet to achieve the backing of a clear majority. Similarly, while support for a second Brexit referendum has grown—with those in favor of staying in the EU slightly outnumbering those who wish to leave— most Britons’ views on the issue have only become more entrenched.